The Health Department Hates Whoopie Pies

Proofed Sticky Buns

Sneak Peak of something I’m working on that the Health Dept does approve – Sticky Buns.

Okay, so the above title is probably a wee bit of an exaggeration.  But after finding out all the restrictions about what I can sell at the Farmer’s Market, that’s kind of how I feel.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the items I’m allowed to sell at the market are highly restricted by the Health Department.  There’s a long list of things I can and cannot sell, but the gist of it is everything has to be shelf-stable and the final step has to be it baking in an oven.  They’ve also specifically excluded any caramels (bye salted caramels…..I’ll miss you), anything with frosting or filling (so long Whoopie Pies and Crack Frosting), and anything with a cream or egg filling (peace out cheesecakes and cream pies).

Now, I understand where the Health Department is coming from.  Their goal is to minimize people’s chances of becoming sick from the products sold.  I think we can all agree that this is a good thing…..no matter how much of a wrench it put in my menu ideas.  Also, for the record, I have to say everyone I’ve talked to and dealt with at the Health Department here has been incredibly nice and more than willing to work with me.  I guess what I’m most bummed about is that some of my best desserts are on the restricted list.  Whoopie Pies and pretty much anything with Crack Frosting (try it and you’ll understand why it’s called that) are my two most requested desserts, but unfortunately I won’t be able to sell either of those at the market.  I was also stoked to do some homemade versions of Nutter Butters and Samoas, but that idea went out the window when I heard about the restrictions.

Alright, enough of my whining – let’s look at the bright side of life (and now that Monty Python song is stuck in my head…..awesome).  The bright side of all this is that it forces me to get out of my comfort zone and is an awesome opportunity for me to get creative.  So far, I’ve had some great moments of inspiration and come up with a few product ideas I’m really stoked about.  My goal is to stand out at the market and bring something unique to the table.  I don’t want to be just another baker with the standard assortment of chocolate chip cookies and dark chocolate brownies.  I have a few tricks up my sleeve (don’t want to reveal too much yet), but I wanted to get your guys’ input.

Here are a few of the general items I’m thinking of doing: sticky buns, brioche, individual bundt and coffeecakes, and vegan and gluten-free cookies (for the health-conscious crowd).  This is definitely not everything I have in mind and I’m playing around with different flavor ideas – but like I said, still got to leave a little mystery out there.  What do you guys think of those items? Anything catch your fancy?  What items would you like to see sold?  Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear what you all think and what ideas you have!

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What I’m Baking: Cranberry Walnut Bran Muffins

Muffin Close Up

One of the best parts about baking is sharing.  Whether it be a batch of cookies or your favorite recipe, it’s always nice to be able to share your craft with others.  I absolutely love when people ask what my favorite recipe is and jump at the chance to be able to share my latest find with them.  This is why I’ve decided to start a weekly post called “What I’m Baking.”  In these posts, I’ll share some of my favorite recipes with you guys and let you know what I’ve been up to in the kitchen.

I decided to start off with my favorite recipe for a weekday breakfast treat, bran muffins.  Breakfast is seriously my favorite meal of the day.  I mean what other meal is it acceptable to eat something sweet and unhealthy, like say Nutella Stuffed French Toast, and not have anyone judge you?  It’s incredible – breakfast is the best.  On weekends, I like to go all out and make biscuits, pancakes, challah French toast and sometimes maybe even some turkey sausage for good measure.  Unfortunately, this style of breakfast is a little time consuming (and let’s face it – a little diet unfriendly) to make every day.

These Cranberry Walnut Bran Muffins are my happy medium.  They’ve got some sweet to them and, amazingly enough, they’re even kind of healthy!  I like to make a big batch of these early in the week and then freeze them.  They freeze beautifully and in the morning you can pop one in the microwave and have a delicious, warm fresh muffin to start your day.  This recipe is from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook.  I love lots of nuts and dried fruit in my muffins, so I tweaked the recipe a bit.  It’s a very adaptable recipe, so feel free to play around with it (I’ve been known to make it with whatever ingredients I happen to have in my kitchen that day).  Let me know what you guys think.  I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do!

Muffin Batter

Cranberry Walnut Bran Muffins

Makes 12 standard or 6 large muffins (which is how I like to roll)

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook

2 large eggs

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

½ cup canola oil

¼ cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)

1 ½ cup bran cereal (like All Bran)

½ cup oat bran

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

¼ cup turbinado sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 generous cup roughly chopped walnuts

1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease either a 12-cup standard or large muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and maple syrup.  Then stir in the oat bran and cereal.  Set aside and let mixture sit for about 10 minutes (this softens the cereal and allows the mixture to become more cohesive).

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Stir the dried cranberries and chopped walnuts into the wet ingredients. Then add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined (it is important to make sure you don’t over mix the batter at this point – otherwise you’ll have tough muffins and no one wants that!).

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and fill each cup a little over ¾ of the way full.

Bake for 18 – 22 minutes for smaller muffins or 20 – 25 minutes for larger ones. The muffins will be done when they spring back slightly when pressed in the center.

Let muffins cool in the tin for about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and let cool on a wire rack.

Baby Steps to the Farmer’s Market

Starting a business is an exciting, albeit slightly slow process.  As much as I wish I could spend all my time recipe testing (and eating….), the most important thing right now is to make sure I have all the proper paperwork completed.  My goal this week was to make sure I had all the necessary paperwork done to be able to sell at the Farmer’s Market this summer.  I love going to Farmer’s Markets and believe it’s one of the best ways for local businesses to get their name out in the community.  It’s like having your own mini-store front each week minus all the costs of actually having a store-front.

The first thing I had to do was talk to the Health Department, who will most likely become my new BFF after this whole process is done.  Like anyone else, I want to make sure what I’m doing is legal, so the Health Department and I will be talking a lot over the next couple months…….I should probably put them in my phone as a favorite now – do you think my boyfriend would be mad if I bumped him from the number one spot in my phone????  Okay, I’m getting off topic – back to my story.  It turns out I’m highly restricted as to the items I can sell at the Farmer’s Market.  At first, I was kind of bummed to hear that a lot of the things I wanted to sell (like Whoopie Pies….sorry guys!) are on the restricted list.  But then I realized this was an awesome opportunity for me to get creative and branch out a bit.  I’ll be writing a post on all this soon, cause I would love to get your input and hear some of your ideas!

Once I got everything squared away with the Health Department, the next step was to make sure I could reserve a booth at the market.  We have two different ones here in Bozeman, a large one on Saturday and a smaller one on Tuesday nights.  My favorite of these is the Tuesday one.  It’s outdoors in a great park and since it’s smaller, my booth will hopefully have a better chance of being noticed and not get lost in the shuffle.  I heard back from the directors of the Tuesday market yesterday and I have some exciting news to share.  Starting June 4, you will be able to buy The Earnest Baker’s products at the Bogert Farmer’s Market!!  It’s a small step, but I could not be more stoked and have had a huge smile on my face ever since I got the confirmation.  I now know for sure that I have a venue to sell my products at and that is huge for me.  I cannot wait to join the awesome community of local market vendors and hope to see all you guys there!

On a side note, if anyone was wondering – the title of this post is a reference to the super awesome Bill Murray movie What About Bob.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you should seriously rent and watch it now…..you can thank me later.

What’s In a Name?

Me and Opa

When you tell people you’re thinking of starting your own business, one of the first questions they usually ask is, “Have you thought of a name yet?”  Coming up with a name is one of the hardest parts of starting a business.  It has to perfectly encompass what you’re all about and set the tone for your entire business.  Customers will most likely hear your name before even having a chance to sample your product, which makes it that much more important to come up with the absolute perfect name.

I knew I wanted the name of my business to be something meaningful to me and something simple and unpretentious like my style of baking.  I knew I didn’t want to use my own name or have something cheesy and uninspired like “Krissy’s Super Awesome Fun Time Cakes” (although now that I think of it – I should totally name a product that).  To help come up with names, I started thinking of all the things I love.  Running, yoga, my dog Rocky, my secret shame show The Vampire Diaries, hiking, playing video games clearly designed for 15 year old boys and not 30 year old women………my stream of consciousness was taking me in a lot of weird directions, so I decided to go out for a run and clear my head.

As I was running, I thought of who inspires me the most and who I would like to honor with my business.  The answer was easy – my Grandfather, who I called Opa.  My Grandfather and I were very close and I always thought we had a special connection.  He called me Kristiney and used to tell me I was “his favorite girl.”  I wanted to somehow incorporate Opa into my business, but the name “Opa” sounded a little too Greek or German for a bakery that won’t feature either of those cuisines.  For some reason I got stuck on the phrase “My Favorite Girl,” but could not figure out a way to make that work.  As my crazy mind started to churn off that idea, I thought about Opa’s first name, Ernest……which led me to think of one of my all time favorite books by Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest……and then all of a sudden it hit me – The Earnest Baker!

When I got home from my run, I looked up synonyms for the word “earnest” and it came up with “heartfelt” and “sincere.”  It was perfect.  I cannot think of two better terms to describe my baking.  The Earnest Baker encompasses everything I wanted – it holds a special meaning and connection to me, perfectly describes the type of business I’d like to create, and, most importantly, it honors my Grandfather.  The picture at the start of this post is of Opa and me (and my super sweet talking Cricket doll) when I was about 6 years old.  The picture below of him is one I keep on my desk.  I keep it there so he can watch over and inspire me while I start this crazy adventure of mine.  He’s the reason I’m doing this and I hope he would be proud.

Opa

Journeying Out of the Depths of Unemployment

My story is a pretty common one these days. Like many people out there, I’m over-educated and struggling to find a fulfilling job.  About a year ago, I left my job in a small town in Colorado to move to Montana.  This move held hopes of better career opportunities, but when I arrived I soon realized how naïve I was.  For the past year, I’ve struggled to find openings for jobs that I’m qualified for and when there are openings I’m finding it even harder to get an interview.  I’m not going to lie – it’s been a hard year.  I’ve tried to make the most out of my unemployment and spend my free time productively by volunteering and fundraising, but no matter how much I do I still can’t help but feel like something is missing in my life.

For those of you who have been unemployed for an extended period of time, you can understand what I’m going through.   At first unemployment isn’t all that terrible and you kind of enjoy having all this new found free time.  As time goes by though, it gets a little less fun and little more feeling like you might go crazy if you don’t get a job soon.  You start to realize that the person you talk to most during the day is your dog (you also start referring to your dog as a person) and that you’re 30 years old and your greatest achievement in the past couple weeks was hitting level 35 on the video game Skyrim.  After a year of disappointments and feeling sorry for myself, I decided I have two options.  I can sit around and hope that the perfect job will open up and someone will finally take a chance on me OR I can take matters into my own hands and take a chance on myself.  It’s time to take a risk people and I haven’t felt this excited in a long time. I’m tired of sitting around, so I’m finally doing it…….I’m starting my own business in baking.  I’m starting off small – baking out of my kitchen, making the Farmer’s Market rounds this summer, and then maybe one day fulfilling my life-long dream of owning my own bakery.

For those of you who know me, you could probably say this decision has been 25 years in the making.  My love for baking started when I was a kid watching my Dad make cookies.  I was so fascinated by the process and loved when he would let me scrape down the bowl for him when he was making the dough.  As I got a little older, I started baking myself and my passion for it has only increased over the years.  I’m kind of a sweet whore and need to eat something sweet every day (I would give up wine before I gave up dessert…..I have a problem).  I also tend to massively geek out on baking, which means I’m constantly in the kitchen whipping up some new dessert or obsessing over the latest cookbook from my favorite pastry chef.  The only thing I love more than baking (and eating the finished product) is being able to share my desserts with the people I care about.

The journey of starting my own business is going to be a long one. There are going to be highs and there are definitely going to be lows.  But here’s the thing, even if I fail at least I’m out there and I’m trying.  I want to take you guys on this journey with me and make you a part of it, so I’m starting this blog to chronicle my path from unemployment to proud business owner.  I want all of you there with me as I test recipes, finalize my business plan, and start getting my name out there in the community.  Get ready for lots of pictures, polls, and hopefully some creative ways to get you involved.  I can’t do this alone and thankfully with how socially connected the world is today, I won’t have to.  I am beyond stoked to start this journey and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.