Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Soda Bread

We really hit it this week with the soda bread.

I just toasted a day-old Irish soda bread I reserved for myself, schmeared with butter.


I got the right combo of sugar (3 parts brown sugar to 1 part white sugar).

It helped to put in a hotter oven -- got a good rise -- 425 degrees. After the bread rises and begins to brown, temp lowered to 350 degrees to finish.

When the dough is mixed, you want to knead/handle it as little as possible -- this makes for a soft, feathery crumb. Our crumb this week was good, if a little dense. Figuring out the correct hydration (buttermilk) ratio will help with this (the past two times I have baked it, I have had to add a little extra flour, then mix a little more to incorporate -- that extra mixing time toughens the crumb).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week Three

We seem to be settling into a groove here. Each week, I am baking more and more, and we are selling more and more. This week, I baked 34 8oz irish soda breads with raisins, and about 20-dozen chocolate chip mandel bread. Everything was sold, with the exception of some mandel bread which I will barter back to my parent bakery for ingredient costs rather than pay cash. Our black tea with cardamom was more on point this week -- 4oz loose tea per 12-cup airpot is the correct ratio. Newcomers JP and SZ did a great job helping me out behind the stand. JP has a record out, so we played choice cuts off that, and he managed to sell one to a collector from SC! Big shouts to those who came through, including yoyo, MT, LA, LA's pops Brian, IA, AST, AR, LP, SSS, MC, EC, Casey, Kelly, and NS. We got static from the Durham Central Park woman who said we were too close to the market, so we moved across the street. I will have to investigate further about the rules and regs on this -- hadn't been an issue the past 2 weeks. Also, she said that bartering with the market sellers was "soliciting", which is not allowed. Our first cease and desist! I'm so proud!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Sweet Potato Donut Muffin
Coffeecake Donut Muffin
DIY Grape-Nuts

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blue Crane Bakery?

So as you know, we've been deliberating names for this outfit for quite some time. Last Wednesday, we were crafting origami cranes (which came out beautifully) with KA, GA, IM, and LA, and the next morning, this blue crane (which yoyo made) was just staring at me. I brought it into work, and it has sat on my bookshelf since. Blue Crane Bakery sounds like a good name, but it is a little too much of [color] [animal] [food service establishment], like Black Dog Cafe, or the Spotted Pig. I would never want to be generic, but BCB definitely has a ring to it. Also, MB brought up the idea of Sliding Scale, which I also think is catchy, and gets at our mission. Finally, I was working at the bakery yesterday and thinking about that Nas song, "The World is Yours". I think something along these lines would get at our mission, that the world is out there for the taking, and our baking operation is a part of that world cast with a sheltering sky. How about, The World is Your Bakery?

From a theoretical standpoint, I find the whole process of indeterminate naming interesting. Not to get too whiteboy about it, but I can't help but think of all the names of the Wu-Tang. Sometimes one name becomes many, and sometimes, many names become one. As Sun Ra said, "I have many names." (cf. Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week Two

week two. cinnamon raisin babka and mandel bread with walnuts and raisins. shouts to jennifer, mattieu, and stephon for coming through. tried the name blue crane bakery (realized halfway through that Scratch has a blue bird on their logo piece, might drop that one by next week). brooke and yoyo behind the stand, freezing (33 degrees in sunny NC). coffee was a big hit, but customers missed the mexican hot chocolate. the ceylon black tea with cardamom provided less of a thrill. gave small origami cranes to good children, really all children, really any children who would let us give them cranes. winnings were higher than last week. i'm not going to report $ totals (seems in poor taste?) -- maybe I'll provide a quarterly report? people were slightly surprised but also receptive to our fair price gambit ("Yeah, these mandel bread are a dollar each, up or down, or really whatever you like?...we're a fair price bakery, see, because not everyone can afford Farmer's Market prices."). not too much trading this week, 1 huge beef shank from Fickle Creek, 2 sweet potatoes, and some Chevre from Celebrity Dairy. I'm trying to learn customer names. I feel like if someone doesn't feel recognized by me the next week, that's like a stain on my soul. yoyo just wants to be able to remember customers who've been there the same day.

What Baking Taught Me About Zen

Feeling an aching back after today's bake sale, washing rice to go with a simmering dal, I was reminded of a saying of Suzuki-Roshi as recounted by Ed Espe Brown: "When you wash the rice, wash the rice." Meaning, have awareness and mindfulness of purpose. Many mornings baking at the bakery, this saying stuck in my head as I was doing one repetitive, banal task or another (such as rolling rolls or washing dishes). The skill of focusing mindfulness is one that is never perfected, only steadily disciplined. At the bakery, I found that the little nagging aches and pains that go along with manual labor could be soothed through bodily awareness. Who is the baker who feels the floor beneath his/her feet, or visualizes mentally the motion of an outstretched arm as it shapes a dough to form?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"We're off of cupcakes; we're back to donuts"

when do i get to eat cupcakes again? it took me 2.5 years before I could listen to James Brown again after his passing; maybe because the cupcake craze never had a definitive end, i can't even count the days until i can eat one without feeling contrived and cliche.

do you remember this? oh, how i wish we could do it all again.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Chocolate Crostata
Cheese Straws
Asiago Cheese Boules
Summertime Spice Rub
Spicy Dal with Ginger

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day One

So Day One went pretty well. Before we had the table set up entirely we had 3 customers waiting. Big shouts to KA, GA, ASC, Jon, John, ex-neighbor Daniel, Stephon, Brian, Mitsue, and the rest of the cats that came through to made us feel love. We sold out or bartered away all our 20-odd soda breads, 3-dozen donuts, and 3 airpots of hot chocolate. Total winnings were $75 plus bartered goods which included:
2 blocks of Celebrity Dairy cheese
a dozen potatoes
one bunch tulips
one bucket fickle creek lard
3 korean tacos (yea bulkogi!)
MT's signs were smash and Lindsay's hot chocolate drew a lot of compliments, including, "This is the best Mexican hot chocolate I've ever had."

Recipes from Day One (top one is irish soda bread, bottom is red velvet donuts):

Other notes:
Lots of people wanted coffee.
Customer suggestion: Try a cream-cheese glaze on the red velvet donuts.

Woman with munchkin eating a munchkin.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Suggested Price

A "suggested price"/"pay-what-you-like" sliding scale pricing system from an unlikely source:

Yoyo seems to think that all of my ideas end up in the mainstream before I can capitalize on them. I was originally inspired on the sliding scale pricing by this outfit:

After seeing that Panera is trying to do pay what you like, I'm more inclined to list a price and offer pay what you like as an alternative? As in, "This soda bread is $3.00 or PWYL."

Thursday, January 13, 2011


The Moral Majority

This is a perception I am working against with mx+b:

Nothing is more revolting than the majority; for it consists of few vigorous predecessors, of knaves who accommodate themselves, of weak people who assimilate themselves, and the mass that toddles after them without knowing in the least what it wants.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We brainstormed some signage ideas tonite with neighbors BN and ASC. A sign from cult ice cream spot Humphry Slocombe:

Highlights from last night's conversation:

"Pushing the boundaries of pie."
Doctors feeding their on-call staff with Berenbaum's Baked Goods.
The open-source concept should be on the sign, but don't use the phrase, "open-source." Clever it up.
"50's Americana always sells."
"Hip, not hipster."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Also on that trip to Scratch, I noticed a lonely half-full bowl of donut muffins. Scratch rose to prominence on the quality of their delectable donut muffins, but over 2 years later, the item feels rote and tired. The question I ask is, how important is it to have a signature item that is good, but not so good that you sell out of every day, that is there every single day, though the bakers may be tired of baking, and has little room for modernization?

Double the Price, Half the Work

Yoyo and I recently had a delicious Chocolate Sea Salt Crostata at Scratch Bakery in Durham. It was a wintry day, but regardless, the bakery was quiet for lunchtime. I know these things fluctuate, but I wonder if they would be more busy if baked items such as the one I shared didn't cost $5.00. If you halve the price, and double the volume, you ~double the amount of baking work, but you make the same amount of $. Is there long-term brand-building value in creating a perception of a busy bakery? What price is generally affordable for a scratch crostata? Is the market for these types of high-end goods only the folks that shop at the Farmer's Market and A Southern Season (i.e. a high price for a niche demographic that either see this as a good buy for the money or have so much money that price matters little)?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ninth Street Bakery

Ninth Street Bakery New at Durham Farmer's Market this weekend - Brooklyn Red Velvet Doughnuts, Berenbaum's Irish Soda Bread, and Mexican Hot Chocolate, served up by 9th Street Baker Ari Berenbaum. Saturday 10-12AM. Look for the stand on Foster St.

Ninth Street Bakery

Ninth Street Bakery Unfortunately, food stand canceled because of impending Winter Weather. Will try again a week from Saturday.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Olive Garden

I was in Wilmington, NC over Christmas with Yoyo and my future in-laws and there was no place to eat on Christmas Eve so we went to the Olive Garden, which was packed with families. There were no independent restaurants open. I got the sense that for plenty of folks, Olive Garden is what McDonald's was in the 80's: good eating out. The food is consistent, tastes like food, and is delivered in a timely systematic way and in a pleasant-ish atmosphere. It is my desire to bring healthy, fresh food to a wide swath of people, and the Olive Garden is my main reference point of competition. If that healthy, fresh food is frozen, shipped to a restaurant across the county, then prepared, is that satisfactory? Are there basic kitchen techniques that workers with no prior experience can learn in order transform frozen or otherwise packaged food into a satisfactory culinary experience?
"Fine dining is the closest the bourgeoisie get to theory-production for in it they elevate an object (edible food) to the dignity of the Thing (cuisine)." (cf. Lacan)

Open Thread

1. Why is there so little racial diversity at the Durham Farmer's Market?

2. What can we do about that?


Does inspiration need to be cited? For example, is it better to label your soda bread Irish Soda Bread or Wannabe Darina Allen Irish Soda Bread, Wannabe Peter Pan Red Velvet Donuts, etc? Inspirational citations give customers a greater sense of the product's formulation, but at the same time, it detracts from the perceived originality of the dish. Discuss.