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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Armed & Dangerous

That's right…

I bought a gun.

Look out!

My shiny new gun is "trigger quick"
and my daughter and I are "trigger happy" .

I would advise you to SECURE YOUR DOUGH!

For years, I've had to borrow my mom's cookie press when I wanted to make spritz cookies. Not anymore! I found this vintage cookie gun at the antique store last weekend. It was only $4.00! Isn't it beautiful? It looks as if it were rarely used and it works great. My daughter and I had a lot of fun trying it out this week. She likes to operate the gun. I like to sprinkle on the sugar and put on the dragees.

I had fun with the packaging too. I put like colors in cupcake liners and tucked them in this pretty silver box that I bought from Fancy Flours then wrapped the box with some vintage ribbon that I had.

If only all the guns in the world were cookie guns…

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Favorite Holiday Recipe

As promised, here is my favorite holiday recipe. I shouldn't even make these 'cause they tend to get eaten up before they ever make it to any holiday gatherings

Peanut Butter Bon Bons

2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. butter
16 oz. (4 1/2) c. powdered sugar
3 c. Rice Crispies
6 oz. milk chocolate chips
butterscotch chips

In saucepan melt peanut butter and butter. In large bowl, combine powdered sugar and cereal. Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture. Mix together with your hands. Form into 1" balls. Chill until firm. Melt chocolate chips. Dip candies in them. Place on wax paper line cookie sheet. Chill.
If desired- drizzle with melted butterscotch chips.

They're not the prettiest things in the world (at least mine aren't) so… it's all about the packaging.

My favorite holiday memory?

My son was born (3 weeks early) on December 23. We were celebrating Christmas with my mom's side of the family that day. My water broke right after dinner (great way to get out of washing dishes, huh?) I was still in the hospital on Christmas day so my mom and dad brought my girls and all the presents to the hospital.

In my previous post I invited 4 people to share their recipe/memory but please don't feel you need an invitation. I'd love to hear about everyone's favorite recipe or memory. You can use my badge if you want or make your own. Whatever suits you. Leave me a comment or e-mail after you write your post so I can read what you wrote!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thank you!

I have been a fan of Katie Runnels' artwork and blog for a long time so…
Imagine how unbelievably excited I was when she asked if she could write a blog post about ME! Holy Cow! Oh My Gosh! Wooohooo! Yippeee!
Katie's blog is not only filled with beautiful things but also great resources for those of us who dream of making a living creatively. I'm sure you've already visited her sight, but if not, you really must check it out.
What an incredible compliment. Thank you Katie!

I was also excited to be tagged by Happy to tell you 6 quirky things about myself (Here's my list of quirkiness) I'm sure I could come up with more than just 6 quirky things to tell you about myself, but with Happy's permission, I have decided to start a new tag. I'm not a big fan of rigid rules so here are the general guidlines:

Write a blog post about your favorite holiday recipe or favorite holiday memory or both.

Invite 1-1,000,000 friends to share their recipe/memory with a link back to the person who invited them and links to the people they are inviting.

I've got a recipe and a memory I'll share soon.

In the meantime I'm going to invite the 4 friends who most recently started following my blog. (Sidenote: I like knowing who's stopping by for a visit but I've got to change the terminology. Followers, following… sounds kinda creepy and cult like. Let's just be friends.)

Anyway my friends are:

Melissa Dawn
Blue Cupcake
Pretty in Pink
Happy Loves Rosie ( since I changed the tag, I can tag her back : ) )

Friday, November 14, 2008

Now showing at the Gallery…

My artwork will soon be on display in a very fine gallery.

Okay… I have a friend who owns a wonderful gallery in a nearby town. She asked me to make some cookies for an opening she's having soon. But, hey, just 'cause I'm not really the main attraction, doesn't mean I can't have a little fun being all hoity-toity, right?

This was my first order of the season. My mom came over and helped me work on these. She even decorated all the angel cookies for me…I've been making angels for the last 10 years, and I just can't stand to do it anymore!

Here's the little "muffin tin of cookie accessories" I put together for decorating day. I made all the sugar-paste holly leaves and things the night before. The multi-colored metallic dragees and the silver colored sugar next to them are brand-new. They just came (from Fancy Flours) in time to use on these cookies. I love the dragees but I was kinda disappointed in the silver sugar. I thought it would look much more metallic/glittery/sparkly. It was kind of a dull gray.

I also listed a few fun new things in my etsy shop. I'm gonna try to get a few more things listed in the next few days so keep checking back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Decorated!

Well… I'm not gonna get a post written tonight as I planned but I did get this place all decorated for the Holidays!
Talk to ya soon…

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Interview- The Constant Baker

This is why I started this blog. I wanted to connect with people who have their own baking business, to find out how they got started and how they keep their business going.

Catherine Slye of She's Sew Slye was kind enough to introduce me to Connie Martin owner of The Constant Baker. Connie allowed me to interview her via e-mail. I think her answers to my questions are very interesting. She left a good job to follow her passion and live her dream. I hope you are as inspired by her courage as I am!

"Connie's passion for baking began as a young girl when she first entered her butterscotch brownie recipe in her Girl Scout troop bake off and won first prize. Throughout her teens she continued to bake tortes, yeast breads, cookies and cakes. While attending Miss Porter’s School, she taught a month long course on making various dessert mousses. She continued to bake while at college and her passion culminated with a dream to attend pastry school. That dream came true in 2006 when she graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco with a degree in Pastry Arts. After a stint with a patisserie, she now owns The Constant Baker and has been delighting dessert lovers throughout the Bay Area and beyond."
–from Connie's Website


• It sounds like you started baking at a very young age. Who taught you to bake? Do you have any favorite "baking" memories you'd like to share?

Connie: I can “blame” it on my paternal grandmother, whom I adored. She was of German heritage and I remember helping her make her kuchen recipe. I must have been 4 or 5 at the time, when I got started. She would put me on a step stool next to her kitchen counter and let me pour the ingredients into the bowl as she worked her magic. She made the best kuchen. I remember eating it with her warm right out of the oven….it was heaven. Unfortunately, the recipe was in her head and it died with her. Words of advice, if you have family recipes that are in someone’s head, get them to write them down. Even if you don’t cook or bake yourself, they are precious bits of family history to be treasured for future generations. My family still talks about that recipe.

• Miss Porter's is a boarding school for grades 9-12 right? I don't know much about life in a boarding school. Did you have access to a kitchen there? Were you allowed to bake when you had free time? How did you end up teaching the course on making dessert mousses?

Connie: Yes, Miss Porter’s (MPS) is a boarding school for grades 9-12. I did have access to a kitchen there but I don’t remember exactly where it was. It was not the main kitchen so it must have been in a dorm. I didn’t bake at MPS, only during the holidays when I went home. At the time I attended MPS, the school had a January term where the girls could study anything they wanted to for the month. I asked my advisor if I could not only study, but teach a class in making dessert mousses. Mousse, at the time fascinated me. They agreed and, at age 17, I had about 10 students who were making mousses with me. We made at least 8-10 different mousses and had a blast doing it.

• Where did you go to college and what was your major? Did you work in any other fields before deciding to go to the California Culinary Academy? If so, what made you decide to go back to school to get your degree in Pastry Arts?

Connie: I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. I majored in Political Science and Economics! Before I went to CCA, I was in the hospitality industry. I worked in catering sales and as a meeting planner in a fine dining restaurant and then in a conference center. In the late 90’s, I also owned my own event planning company, Corporate Events. When I first graduated from college, I worked in New York on Wall Street as a commercial loan officer in a commercial bank; Bankers Trust Company, which is now owned by Deutsch Bank. I attained the position of Assistant Vice President while there.
What made me decide to get a degree in Pastry Arts? I have always loved to bake. As I have grown older, I realized that my soul was crying out to me to follow my passion. It was very scary to answer this call as I left a very good job to attend CCA. But I knew, that on the last day of my life, if I had not attended Pastry School I would have regretted it.

• I have a daughter who is a senior in high school this year. She dreams of owning her own coffee shop someday. She will probably get her bachelor's degree in business, but she is also considering attending a Culinary Arts school. Can you tell us a little bit about Culinary Arts School? What advice would you give her?

Connie: If you have a passion for baking, especially the science and creativity of it, you are in for a treat if you attend culinary school. I literally had to pinch myself everyday I was in school because I could not believe I was so lucky to have such a wonderful opportunity to learn so much about a subject I love. My chef instructors were very patient given their awesome backgrounds. We were such neophytes but they loved us for both our good times and bad. And there were some ugly moments. But that is how you learn. My worst moments were my best teachers. My advice; be open to the experience and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s better to make them there than on the job!

•After culinary arts school, you worked at a patisserie before deciding to start your own business. I'd like to know more about your decision to go out on your own. What led to that decision? Was it scary? Were there any difficulties in the beginning?

Connie: I decided to go out on my own because no one was doing what I was doing in my area and I wanted some flexibility in my life. It is very scary to go out on your own because you have no idea how your business will be received. It was very difficult to get started. I had to design a menu, cost it out, and write a business plan. Then I had to find a commercial kitchen, get all of my permits…and Santa Clara County has very strict requirements. After that there was the administrative side of setting everything up; bank accounts, bookkeeping system, business identity, logo, website….the list of “things to do” is endless! I am still working on it and expect I will be for awhile!

• How is your business set up? If I remember right, you rent a shared commercial kitchen space and you don't have a store front. (right?) Can you discuss the pros and cons of this type of set-up?

Connie: Yes, I work out of a shared commercial kitchen and it is the best way to get started in my opinion. The costs of leasing and running a kitchen on your own are exorbitant and the permit process is very extensive. Plus I have flexibility. I signed a one year lease. If you lease and build out your own space, you don’t have that flexibility. My shared kitchen works fine. Everyone is pretty accommodating and, when a few of us are in there together, we work things out regarding use of equipment.

•When you first established your own business, how did you get the word out/market your business/find new customers?

Connie: I am a member of a few networking groups and that is how I started getting my name out there. As people gave my products as gifts, those people then called me for cookies. I am still building my business, of course, and am looking into some other venues such as one of the Farmer’s Markets here.

• What is a typical day like for you? How do you manage your time? How much of your time is spent actually baking vs. time spent on "business" things?

Connie: I don’t think I have a typical day. If I have baking to do, which I do most days, I go to the kitchen early and complete those tasks. I spend about 3-4 hours per day baking right now. I hope to increase that. The rest is spent on doing other things such as buying product, networking, and admin..

• I think pricing is one of the most difficult parts of selling baked goods. How did you decide on your prices?

Connie: Pricing is difficult. I priced all of my products last March and the cost of everything I use has gone up considerably. I decided on my current pricing based on the cost plus a mark-up for making the product. I expect I will need to increase my prices in January to cover the increased food costs. I also am using more expensive chocolate now so that has changed my pricing structure too.

• Just for fun… What is your favorite dessert to make? Is there a certain special tool or supply you could not live without? Can you recommend any fun supply sources?

Connie: I love lemons and we have a gorgeous Meyer Lemon tree in our backyard. I love to make anything lemon with the fruits from our tree; tarts, breads, marmalade, cookies, you name it. They all taste delicious because of our yummy lemons.
I love my offset spatulas. I use them all of the time. Fun supply source? NY Cake and Baking. I wish I lived closer to it; although that would be dangerous for my bank account.

Thank you Connie! The crazy busy holiday baking season is fast approaching (if not already here). I really appreciate that you took the time to do this!