Monday, April 30, 2012

Week 54

The product: We went strong with the tarts this week.  100 made and 48 minis, all sold or bartered.  We had a lot of really good compliments on the Chili-Garlic Tartlet.

Also, one customer complimented Ruch's Famous Kimchi by saying that it was what she ate for dinner every night through Finals week with some sushi rice and avocado.

Lastly, we have been selling This and That Jam the past two weeks as Ali has been helping in our kitchen with the tartlets.  The street reaction on the jam is very positive, and I think a lot of it has to do with the freshness and quality of the ingredient.  When you taste jam from fruit that has been picked in the past week, it just better than what you can get off the shelf.  Not being one to generally indulge on premium condiments, I feel oh so fancy helping myself to their Strawberry Balsamic Sea Salt Jam, smeared across a toasted piece of our French Bread with butter.  It makes an ordinary snack delectable.  Also, you might not be able to tell unless they told you, but the hint of sage they add is the ingredient that helps the whole recipe bloom and encapsulate all the other flavors.

Shout outs to our customers: EC & SMG, A&A&M, Harriet, ADK, LG, Holly, Horst. Franklin et al., Weege et al., Joel et al.

South Durham Farmer's Market: We heard the opening of the South Durham Farmer's Market went off with a bang.  Cheers to Ben F., Kat Spann, and all the other folks who invested in the project.  Maybe a future opportunity for Berenbaum's?

The Crew: As usual, I really couldn't do it without you, you being RML, RG, AR, Ali R., and SZ.  We are facing the prospect of AR moving away from Durham for a post-doc, so more than ever before, I am grateful and appreciative of the help of our friends.

Wholesale development: Our wholesale tart program is coming along.  We contacted four interested parties last week, and currently you can find our tarts at Reliable Cheese, Respite, and NOFO (Raleigh).

Question: Someone this weekend was telling me about good bakeries/donut shops in Burlington, NC. Anyone know more?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pizza Dough

A friend of mine asked for a pizza dough recipe, so I thought I would share with you all.  If you have limited experience kneading or using a countertop mixer, you might want to watch a video online first on how to knead.

2.5 cups flour,
1 cup water,
1.25 teaspoons salt,
1.5 tablespoons olive oil,
1 teaspoon sugar
half a packet of instant yeast (~.125 ounces)

Run the faucet on hot till you get to 105 degrees. Add the yeast and the sugar to one cup of this hot water and stir.  The mixture should bubble up nicely in about 10-15 minutes.

Add the flour to a bowl and make a well in the middle.  Add the yeast mixture and the olive oil.  Using a mixing spoon, partially incorporate the ingredients by stirring a couple of times, then sprinkle on the salt.  Then mix with the spoon till it comes together into a clumpy mass.  There will be excess flour on the bottom of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a surface and begin kneading.  If the dough begins to stick to your fingers, add some of the excess flour.  If you've used up all the flour, add a couple of drops of olive oil.  This will make the dough more consistent and easy to knead.  Knead for about 10 minutes, or until you can stick your finger into it and it leaves a soft indentation, or when you stretch it, you can stretch it pretty thin (bakers call this "the windowpane"; it means the gluten bonds have formed to a satisfactory degree).

Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours (it can go up to 3 hours if you like) or overnight in the fridge.  Then separate the dough into 2 balls and allow them to rest on a floured surface for at least 20 minutes prior to stretching out into pizza pie.

Note: For more authentic pizza, use fine ground semolina flour.  Semolina flour absorbs more water, so you will need slightly less of it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week 53

The Product: Of especial note this week was AR's kimchi, which had amazing balance of flavors - the best I have tasted thus far.  And as expected, the tartlets sold out quickly.  We will have to bring more next week.

 Our tartlets, shot by Weege.  You can find these this week at Respite Cafe.

Our giveaway winners this week, Laurie S. and Danya.

KIN volunteers Elena+1, Natalie, Travis & Edie Lou, and John.

The crew: Big ups to AR and Ali R. in the kitchen, rolling pie crust like pros.  Also big ups to RML on the stand -- "the bird were chirping" Saturday because of you. Thanks to RG for rolling out our bike deliveries.

Our awesome customers: Shout outs to Justine & Barb, Laurie S. & Danya, EC & SMG, Joel+1, Marybeth & Allen, Marv, Mariya, Allie & Jeff, A & A & M & M's Grandma, Becky, Nate & Amanda & Elizabeth, Weege, Leia.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Week 52

The scene: Lots of cute kids eating our Super-Ginger cookies.  You can find those cookies this week at Reliable Cheese.  Also, many tourists (Patriots Day weekend) and Full Frame-goers out in the sunny 70-degree weather.

Our awesome customers: Harriet (with more bartered Passover treats!), MC&EC&SMG, Laura S. & family, Marybeth+1, Renata F. (our giveaway winner!), Susan S., Horst, Heather M., Holly B., AS, Mariya+1, Roseanne, Adam R., Allie&Jeff.

The crew: Thanks to AR helping out in the kitchen this week, and to SZ and RML at the stand and RG on the delivery route.  Spring weather is one of the best times to enjoy being out and engaging others who value and support our local economy.

Coming attractions: With the sinking of our hopes to join the DFM (they still have not replied to my letter of inquiry), we brainstormed hard about how best to build out the business in the coming year.  After inspiration from various sources (Tarts by Tarts, the Tartist Laura S., and Pi(e) Day), we decided to start wholesaling individual sweet and savory tartlets to local cafes.  Assuming the weather holds, we will have individual-sized tarts this weekend at the stand and we have a couple of trial orders going out to select cafes next week.  If you know a cafe that might like to stock our product, please email berenbaums at gmail dot com.  Thanks!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Is it just me or is there construction on virtually every block of central Downtown Durham?

Check out Greenfire Development's "Master Plan".

Rumored new food spots for Downtown: a cupcake bar, the Pit, Crooks Corner, a pizzeria, two cocktail bars.

You Know You Like to Bake When... always keep a minimum of two dozen eggs and two pounds of butter in the fridge.

Friday, April 13, 2012


Monday, April 9, 2012

Week 51

The product: We received many compliments on our rosemary and olive oil matzo, from "You've made matzo edible," to "This is the best matzo I've ever tasted."  I'm happy that we could provide a positive spin on what can be an otherwise tasteless cracker.

Our awesome customers: ADK, Leia, Ali&Ben&Esme, Marybeth, Mark+1, Annie&Kate&Mark&Moses, A&A&M, HM, Harriet (with bartered macaroons?), Greg P.

The newest addition to the Berenbaum's fanbase, Miriam, 10-days old, daughter of A&A

Everyone's favorite biscotti-eating gangster, HM

Giveaway winner Greg P. with (L to R) SZ, AR, AB.  Photo by RML.

The crew: Big ups to SZ, RML, AR, and RG.  Saturday was our first longer-session day (8AM-noon) and that means more quality time with the team.  Also, many thanks to MC and SSS, guest stars in the matzo-rolling kitchen.

Our little crew of matzo-making elves: AR, SSS, MC

Coming up: Next Saturday will still be Passover (the eighth day) so I am thinking about some oat-based products (granola; granola bars).

Monday, April 2, 2012


I've been a fan of Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe (aka Vimala's) since they opened in 2010.  I remember speaking with her prior to opening about how she was going to price things so that "everyone could eat" (her tagline), which at the time sounded awesome to me because I was making near minimum-wage as a full-time baker.  Indeed, if you bring up the fact that you cannot afford it, she will still cook you a plate for whatever you can afford.  But looking at all the prices listed on their menu, you can see that the establishment does not target lower-class folks (entrees are $9-$17; I had their BBQ plate a couple of months back for $14).  I am not sure how many lower-class diners who would otherwise eat the Dollar Menu at McDonald's come regularly to take her up on her offer.

What do folks think of this?  How do you run an enterprise that traffics in good will, liberal social values, and a message of food accessibility while at the same time meeting your budget and revenue needs?

Today on Vimala's Facebook:
Delicious, nourishing food must be made *accessible*. "Researchers also found each time consumers obtained 1 percent more of their daily calories from saturated fat and added sugar, their food costs significantly declined." We need food justice for all, not just more fancy healthy options for a few.
Study finds following USDA’s updated balanced diet guidelines would add hundreds of dollars to the average consumer’s food costs.

Going back to Jamtown

No, not Jamaica, fruit is officially on the vines, so we are readying ourselves for another season of jam-making.

Last year's season was disappointing to say the least.  We started with aspirations of jam and ended up with syrup (in strawberry, blueberry, and peach varieties).

Where did we go wrong?

I prefer to use three simple ingredients in my jam: fruit, sugar, and lemon juice (acidity is integral to jam's ability to gel).  Pectin (natural or otherwise) is a simple way to make sure your jam sets up nicely, but I dislike the green apple aftertaste it can hint at.

I believe that our soft set was disrupted by spooning the hot jam into jars, then all the handling that goes into processing the jars.  The jam's crystalline bonds were less resilient that I believed.  What worked for me previously in small batches was too fragile at the scaled-up level to work (e.g. 30 half-pints at a time).

This year, based on what I have learned from poppy candy-making, once the jam gels, I think I will allow it to come to room temperature before scooping into jars and processing.  We'll see how it works out.

To learn more about jam-making, This and That Jam is providing a quick demonstration tonite at Fullsteam Brewery at 8PM for their Kickstarter fundraiser.

Creaming Technique

Never having trained professionally in pastry (only in breadmaking), I've had my share of cookies and cakes go sideways from improperly creamed butter, sugar, and eggs.  I think the issue for the home baker is that recipes always say after creaming the sugar into the butter, "Add your eggs one at a time, blending completely before proceeding," or something to that effect.  The issue is, in a commercial bakery, if you add your eggs one at a time into a large bowl that is continously mixing, each incremental egg adds only a little liquid (e.g. a large batch of cookies might have 30 or 40 eggs).  But at home, you might only be using a recipe that calls for two or four eggs -- meaning that each additional egg adds a lot of liquid (proportionally) that could potentially break the the butter's emulsion (butter is essentially air trapped in fat -- once that seal is broken, the butter goes oily and you end up with a greasy pastry).

My current at-home fix to this problem is to add a little of the flour I would ordinarily add at the end as I am blending in the eggs.  After tossing in an egg (and if the solution ever looks like it is going to get kind of wet or liquidy), I toss in a quarter or eighth of a cup.  This has worked out really well thus far.  Let me know if it works for you at home.

Week 50

After a week rained out, we were back at it on Saturday.

Unfortunately, dreary light rain fell for most of the market.  Our meteorologist at Wunderground steered us wrong on that one.

Regardless, sales were strong and the product came out nicely.  I was (finally) happy with our Sweet Poppy Babka -- getting the filling consistency right has been a great learning process.  You want to stir the poppy candy on medium-high heat until you can see the bottom of the pan and the surface looks shiny and feels syrupy on a plate.  Then, allow the candy to set without any stirring until it comes to room temperature -- any stirring after it stops boiling hard destroys the sugar's crystalline bonds and makes the candy go liquid. 

New vendor: Under Bob the Trailer Guy's tent, we sidled up to a new vendor, Jo Pelligra, who sells her Spread vegan cheese in four varieties, Cheddar, Goat, Smokey, and Port Wine.  It uses an almond base, and as a fellow Old West Durhamite, we totally support her gig!

Our awesome customers: ADK, Leia, Alex K. (great bartered cheddar biscuits (with whole wheat flour and cornmeal)), Crystal&Clinton&Dashielle, Bob P.

SZ with husband of giveaway winner, Wendy T. (we didn't catch his name)

SZ with giveaway winner Bob P.

DFM update: An inside source at DFM tried to convince me that our application was not as poorly received as I had thought.  Out of 49 applications, ours made it to the final round where Chicken Bridge was selected over us because 1) They have a larger product line of more variety with greater capacity to increase future production (they currently supply four retail spots in addition to the Carrboro Farmer's Market); 2) This is the fourth year they have applied; and 3) The wife on the team is also pastry chef at Andrea Reusing's nationally-recognized Lantern.  I think our Durham-ness should take precedence, but it sounds like Chicken Bridge was perceived as a bigger name/bigger draw.

Meeting of the baker minds: I finally had my first conversation with Ron Graff, owner of Loaf -- really nice guy.  I will totally take him up on his offer of a tour through his new digs.  His croissants are some of the best that I've had in the Triangle.

Da Crew: Big ups to SZ and RML.  Rainy days at the market always take a special dedication and you guys have it.  Saturday was the first day for strawberries at DFM -- eating those first pickings of sweet Spring fruit together is an awesome tradition to be shared by friends.  Also big up to RG on the rainy delivery route.

Coming up: Passover 2012.  Passover is kind of like the baker's anti-holiday, but we are going to try to come correct with some matzo, macaroons, and macarons.