Friday, December 30, 2011

The First Step is Always the Hardest.

I don't know if that's particularly true in this case, but once you take the first step, in whatever you do, the next step is easier. Taking a chance on yourself and seeing it through can be quite a challenge, but that’s what makes success taste so delicious, you work for it! According to Open Forum, the small business blog/newsletter put out by American Express and an article written by Mike Michalowicz, along with that first step you need to take five others to push yourself over the tipping point and into success. Michalowicz says all successful people take six steps, no matter what their success is in, and you can take those same six steps! Are you ready?? YES!!

Step 1. Set Goals. Give yourself a start date and an end date for when you want to reach that goal and don’t cut corners or slack! Make the goals achievable, small at first, but attack them and be proud of yourself for doing it!

Step 2. Get Started. I mean, right now! Go!! Have you ever noticed how much more you can get done when you are excited about something? It seems less of a chore when you have momentum and excitement behind you, break your project down into manageable parts and tackle one of them right now!

Step 3. Think Happy Thoughts. Some fairy dust might help too, but since we don’t have that, use your own magic powers. Successful people aren’t pessimists, they are optimists all the way. When you put out good, you get back good. They see the bright side, believe they can do what they set their mind to, and they achieve. 

Step 4. Take Action. You might not think you have all the info you need, but use what you have and do something with it. I have news for you. If you wait until you feel like you have all the answers, you will be waiting forever. As long as you have key details, you can get moving.

Step 5. Sticktuitiveness. What? It’s a word! Have a strong will to carry on, you may not know how things are going to go, but you won’t find out until you actually see it through. And remember, everything happens for a reason. If things aren’t working out exactly as you planned, maybe they are actually working out for the better!
Step 6. Bring it to you. Have you heard of The Law of Attraction? How, if you think positive, clear thoughts and focus your energy on something particular, you notice it more. Use your thoughts to draw success to you. Bring it your way, grab on to it and take it for a ride. There is a quote on the Open Forum blog from Buddha; “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”

To Be Fair...

Barry Callebaut recently introduced Fairtrade-certified versions of their chocolate the 35.1% milk, 55.3% and 70% dark chocolate with no recipe adjustment. I hear Fairtrade a lot, but thought I might do a quick delve into what it actually means, so you can determine if it’s something you would like to support. To start, a definition off a webpage I found on the Green America website helpful; "Fair Trade is a system of exchange that honors producers, communities, consumers, and the environment. It is a model for the global economy rooted in people-to-people connections, justice, and sustainability”. It encourages women to participate in the work force and leadership roles, and strictly regulates human rights and child labor laws alike ensuring safe working conditions and finally a chance to take a small business that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and allow it to become part of the global market. Fairtrade certification ensures the product being sold is bought meets particular economic, social and environmental standards providing workers with fair pay for their labor, goods and empowering them to receive an honest ability to sustain themselves and the earth. 

Barry Callebaut will have agreed to pay a fair price for the chocolate, an amount that would cover cost of production, wages, and the basic necessities of living including food, shelter, clothing, medical care and education. Fairtrade items include coffee beans, cocoa pods and chocolate, sugar, rice, flowers, olive oil, tea, vanilla beans, wine, crafts, bananas and…sports balls. You learn something new everyday! 

Fair Trade is monitored by World Fair Trade Organization, a global community consisting of over 350 organizations committed to the principals of Fair Trade and they operate in over 70 countries and in five different regions of the world, including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North American and the Pacific Rim. And for clarification, there is Fair Trade and Fairtrade. The difference is Fair Trade is the movement to make the world better. Fairtrade is the actual labeling stamp you see on products, like if you are ever in a Whole Foods, they are amazing with this. The Fairtrade Labeling Organization puts this stamp only on products that meet the standards from the supported producer.For more information, check out the following links and share what you learn!

No BPA for the FDA?

By the last day of March, 2012 the FDA must decide whether it will ban the use of BPA in food packaging. BPA is chemical bisphenol A, found in hard plastics of food packaging containers, and linings that seal many metal food containers. In studies done on animals, it has been found that it may have negative effects on health. Scientists believe that BPA will negatively react with the “brains, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses, infants and young children” others link it to an increased risk of cancer and other life threatening diseases.

The FDA has said that a recent assessment of B.P.A. at current levels of exposure has not been shown to harm people of any age but did recognize the harm in animals and sees the need for further studies. As of 2010 the FDA said that additional research was in progress and that there should be steps to reduce exposure to BPA and support action to stop producing products for infants contaminated with BPA and minimize BPA levels in other items. The American Chemical Council has said that BPA is safe, and they don’t expect the FDA to change their position, maintaining that BPA is safe in food containers, as government agencies around the world have determined.Click on the link below to learn more and determine if you want to take additional steps to avoid BPA exposure.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Love Will Be In The Air

So basically we are looking at 6 weeks until Valentines Day, plus a few days. That means, you have to order any mixes or bases you don't have, NOW! And, I wanted to show you a very decadent, delicious and delightful cake you can make, that will surely make all the women (and men) of your world happy! It doesn’t take much, and some of you may already have it on hand, but you need to start with the Abel & Schafer Chocolate Crème Cake (22011) and some pretty heart shaped Novacart molds if you have them, or anything of the sort. Then it’s a quick mix of a cake, a dash of pastry cream, I would recommend the Abel & Schafer Creme Patisserie (24005) some beautiful red, juicy strawberries and for good measure, perhaps some Strawberry Kiddy Gel (03044) to keep the fruit fresh. From there top with chocolate shavings, almond slices, Hagelzucker (03058) or some Sweet New Snow (03060) and you have a beautiful, chocolaty, and quick treat for Valentine’s Day that’s sure to win you some hearts! Click on the name below!

Friday, December 23, 2011

“This watch is exactly two days slow.”

Do you like tea? I love tea. I think I’ve always loved tea. My father was born in Ireland and I partially blame it on that. You become accustomed to things. Or, it might be that as soon as we were old enough, we drank it out of our bottles; quite diluted with milk, but tea none the less. My nephew, who is four, requests, nay, requires at least 2 cups of hot tea a day. Coffee is grand, and plays a fantastic mental trick on me, letting me think the caffeine helps me wake up in the morning (the truth is caffeine doesn’t really do much for me, sure, too much makes my hands shake but you can give me an IV of it and put me to bed, and I’ll sleep) but tea gives me comfort. But, not any old tea, I prefer the English or Irish Breakfast Tea. While I was in London, we went back to the hotel everyday for tea service at 3 and it was my favorite part of the day! So tea…do you have tea at your restaurant/bakery/shop? It might be worth looking into. According to QSR Magazine  not only is tea the world’s second most popular drink, water coming in first, but tea sales are growing like they haven’t seen in many years. With people looking for healthier alternatives in their diets carbonated beverages and juices are losing step while tea, hot and cold, and all its natural glory is shining through. The Tea Association estimated that tea imports (almost all tea sold in the US is imported) increased more than 10% over 2010 and restaurants are seeing a 3-5% increase in sales over the past few years. It might be a hot little number to think about…everyone does like a croissant and cappuccino, but you can’t deny tea and scones.

Tea parties are fabulous fun are fabulous fun at any age, a good way to re-acclimatize your customers with peti fours and come cucumber sandwiches made on your house white. Tea and cake, beautiful tea cups and pots, high tea, there are great opportunities to educate and have fun with your customers. Brands, choices and quality are plentiful, so secure some samples and have a tea party of your own! Tea is most delicious with some sweets…I’d recommend some Irish Soda Bread (22091), scones (22091, yes the same) and some delicate almond florentines made with Florenta (02122). Read more of the QSR article here for more numbers, more about iced tea and some info on the flavored herbal teas. 

As for the title of the quote at the beginning of the bit, it’s from a fantastic movie…who can guess?! I’ll send a sample of the Irish Soda Bread and Scone mix to the first correct guess! Don’t cheat! Reply here to the blog. I'll give you a hint in the form of a riddle. "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

Specialty Dessert is our Specialty.

The holidays are classically a great time for bakeries. People have grand dreams of creating their own delicious desserts at home, and many do, but many just can’t! I don’t know if time or talent is the bigger problem…fear or flavor…but regardless, it’s a great time to be a baker, especially when offering the items that even people who do bake can’t or are afraid to try to bake, the specialty items, which include pate a choux, cannoli’s, chocolates, custards and puddings, anything with pastry cream, puff pastry or layers really. 
Overall, for the year ending August 27th, 2011 in-store bakery sales of specialty desserts increased over 5% from last year! The good news is that the biggest sales jump is Valentines Day, so there is still time to prepare! The second piece of good news is that the winter holidays were healthy, so hopefully, you just had a great week! Mothers Day was excellent last year too…and the biggest sellers outside of specialty desserts were flowers. Candy was very popular, as was chocolate dipped fruit but éclairs and cannoli’s were the top sellers! 

To continue reading the article where the information comes from, click here. There are a few bar graphs that show interesting sales numbers of desserts broken down by type, and information of sales by region of the country. And, for more information on how you can make your life easier with some instant pastry cream, golden eclaire mix, and fillings of all sorts, head over to the web page, and for questions, give the office a call at (800)-443-1260. We have a fresh New Year ahead of us, let’s make it the best one yet! Keep an eye out for some news here on the blog, and make sure you sign up to be a member. We are going to offer some deals for members only, so sign up here then head on over and like us on facebook. I'll see you one more time before the New Year!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Lucky You?

I’m obviously not going to take a lesson from my own book of mistakes. I should have been talking about New Year’s weeks ago. But, like my Hanukkah doughnuts times a running out. Not that I have anything really I can share with you…New Years Eve and Day are more culinary holidays, which of course always require great bread and dessert, but I thought we could give the retail push a rest for a minute (just one) and talk about the how to start your New Year’s off right! 

There are all sorts of stories of lucky food you can eat and while luck may not be your thing, I say, it can’t hurt! My brother-in-law’s family are Pennsylvania Dutch and bring the New Year in with Pork and Sauerkraut. Before I tried it, I thought it sounded awful, but when I was home one year for the holidays, I had my first taste and I loved it! I now make it on New Year’s Day if I’m not with them. The first year I had it I met my current boyfriend, and hopefully I will say in the near future, the first year I tried it I met my future husband. That’s a lucky year, I mean, a really lucky year if you ask me! Anyway, the PA Dutch think this is lucky because pigs are forward thinkers; all their hooves face forward and they root forward. And the long strands of sauerkraut represent long life. Speaking of long strands, many Asian families eat noodles on New Year’s Day, with a catch. You can’t break the noodle on the way into your mouth! The long noodles represents long life. The southerners like black eyed peas and collard greens. The peas are good luck and the leafy greens are green like money, so they represent good fortune, as does the cabbage many German’s and Irish consume. Lentils is another popular good luck/good fortune food. The lentils look like little coins representing fortune. Fish, like the pig, move forward, so they are considered luck going forward in the New Year and some view fish as representing abundance since fish swim in schools. Pomegranates have long been linked to abundance and fertility and a common New Years delight, and at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Spanish eat 12 grapes. You have to eat all 12 before all 12 chimes of the clock ring for extra luck and prosperity. They correlate to the months of the year. If you eat a sour grape as your third grape, it is believed your third month, March, may not be so sweet. I’d say stick to the red table grapes from the store and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, just in case. 

 If you want to read more about the lucky foods, and where these pictures came from, check this out and this too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“Twinkle twinkle candle bright, burning on this special night…”

I think by now we all know how this crazy mind of mine works. It's not pretty in there. But sometimes, it is downright fantastic. This started out as a post on a way to eat more doughnuts. Everyone needs a way to eat more doughnuts, don't even try to argue against that, but then, it turned into a history lesson for me, and I am so happy! So first off I subscribe to If you don’t know it, it’s a sight that sends me things it thinks I’ll like based on my profile and pages I search on its site. It’s scary how smart my computer is. Anyway one link it sent me a few weeks ago was about a trend I didn’t even know about. Apparently it is or was becoming common to add a slice of pie to milkshakes over the summer…to make them more delicious. I mean, as if milkshakes even need to be more delicious. I’m not saying I wouldn’t try it, I’m just saying if you have a milkshake and want to give it to me, I’ll have it with or without pie. I’m good like that. Anyway, so the article goes on to say that since it isn’t really milkshake season they needed a cold weather drink and a baked good all mixed up together. Don’t judge, just go with it. So, obviously…hot chocolate was the natural choice for the delectable winter drink, but what to put in it? How do you really make hot chocolate better, because it’s pretty darn good to begin with. This is what I was thinking as I was reading. I thought too soon…as it turns out, DOUGHNUTS!, chocolate doughnuts absolutely make hot chocolate better. If you think about it, well of course they do. How could they not if silly old graham crackers can?

So that’s where I began innocent enough. Then, as I was searching the internet for more interesting things to share with you outside of hot chocolaty doughnuts, you are wanting one now, aren't you? It's okay, you can admit it....I realize that I’ve been super hyped about Christmas but haven’t mentioned Hanukkah, and it just so happens that this year, they overlap. Hanukkah is December 20th until the 28th! I am ashamed to admit it, but growing up Catholic, I am mostly ignorant of other religions (most likely the reason for the lapse) and it wasn’t until a few years back, as a grown adult that I began to yearn for a broader religious education and was lucky enough to have a few Jewish friends to pester. They introduced me to some of their cultural traditions, which I found at once fascinating! What nobody told me was how important food is to their religious celebrations. And as I write this I have just finished reading about doughnuts and Judaism. Can you believe this coincidence?! First hot chocolate and now Hanukkah! What this tells me, is a higher power wants me to eat doughnuts and what I’m going to tell you, in the quick quick version is what I just learned about doughnuts and Judaism.

One of the traditional foods eaten at Hanukkah are doughnuts, jelly filled doughnuts, cheese filled doughnuts dipped in honey, cake doughnuts, yeasted doughnuts all in remembrance of the miracle of the holiday. The miracle of Hanukkah (which in Hebrew means ‘to dedicate’) was of course the small amount of oil the Maccabees (Jewish rebels) had which should have lasted only one day, but lasted eight. The Maccabees fought to regain control of their temple from the Syrian-Greeks who had taken over and tried to force the Jews to worship Greek Gods, eat pig flesh and abandon their G-d, doing all of these things in the cities Temple, defiling it. After successfully regaining the Temple the Jewish troops wished to purify it by burning ritual oil and rededicate it to G-d, the oil needed to burn in the menorah for eight days. They soon found there was only one day of oil left for them. They lit the oil anyway and for eight days that oil burned. That was a miracle. So, how do doughnuts get involved? To help remember the importance of the oil, at Hanukkah foods cooked in oil are eaten to signify celebration and remembrance. So, in honor of the quickly approaching holiday, we celebrate doughnuts, whether in our hot chocolate or out! And, now we are cutting it close with just talking about doughnuts now and Hanukkah just around the corner, but the doughnut craze is only going to get bigger. Why not have your doughnuts get better by using one of the Abel & Schafer doughnut mixes? Give the office a call, ask for a sample or some more information and treat your customers to the joy of truly delicious doughnuts! And, if you decide you are going to add them to your cocoa, here is a quick recipe that I got from StumbleUpon. It is for four cups of hot chooclate, and can be thinned with extra milk or coffee before drinking, oh my gosh, now we are adding coffee. It's like Christmas and Hanukkah in a cup. 

2 C. whole milk
1 glazed or sugar coated chocolate Abel & Schafer cake doughnut
½ C. semisweet chocolate chips
Pinch salt

In a blender, combine the milk and doughnut. Puree until very smooth. This could take a minute or longer.
Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan. Whisking constantly, heat over medium until it thickens, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chocolate chips and salt, whisking until the chocolate has melted and the cocoa is smooth. Serve immediately. 

As for my education, like many good things, I googled it.

Social Media's Socially Inept

I've heard there are some folks out there against the technology push. No smart phones (gasp!), no Twitter account and no Facebook page! As you can see, I'm baffled enough by this information, I'm blogging about it. But I have to tell those people, beware! Technology is pushing back, as is most of Generation X, and basically all of Gen Y (the Millennial’s). There are options though, not to worry. You can be left in the dark and miss out on some major marketing opportunities or hop on board this gem of what is not a trend, but a new way of life. The arguments are the same. "It's invasive, it's too personal, I don't want to", and I will say back to you, "it's okay, don't worry, everything new and different is kind of scary".  “Fine” you may think, but not say out loud, surrendering…but how? I am here to tell you not to be embarrassed by that question, that’s a question lots of people have.

There are some easy steps to get started, after of course signing up for some social marketing networks, which is only as hard as giving up 10 minutes of your time, tops. First before you even go online…think of how you want to brand yourself. Tell your customers the answer to the first question they will have. Why do they need to know you…what do you do?  That is easy enough, right? Everyone likes to brag a little about how great their venture is. So, tell them 1. What is it you do, 2. What you want to be known for and 3. What you can do for them. People want you to make their lives better and easier. It doesn’t need to be complicated, wordy, over analyzed or lengthy, just to the point. We make the best bread you will ever eat so you don’t have to. No time to bake, we bake for you….you are providing a voice for your business. And remember, with the internet, once it is out there, it’s out there. There is no take backs. If you say it, it’s said forever so, no angry thoughts or private info; only share things that it’s okay for other people to know. Now, keep reading the Open Forum article here, to find the next steps, more thorough help and the confidence you need to get that facebook page up and running, and to blog, find “friends” or “likes” and let the world know, just how great your place is!

Friday, December 9, 2011

How Trendy are You 2012?

Not too many trends usually include us sweet folks, but I still think they are worth hearing about, if only to look back and laugh,like last year's prediction that pie would oust the cupcake, ha ha ha ha ha or for the few that do include us. This is only a short list, and there will certainly be more but according to Andrew Freeman and Company, a hospitality consulting agency whose work spans the country and specializes in marketing, PR and creative services. In Europe they see French fry menus, where you get to say how they are cut, cooked and topped, creative ice cream flavors which sound awful to me (candied beets, licorice sabayon and grass and horseradish…gack….) and yet more flavor infused vodkas, a trend we are participating in as well here in the States. Over Thanksgiving at the liquor store I saw a Swedish Fish, Cotton Candy, and Cake vodka. There were others…m;postID=1520041355593883277ore candy type flavors, but they were too absurd to remember (bubble…as in gum.) But, there is also bacon flavored, which I will be trying over the Christmas holiday in a Bloody Mary. Anyway, these flavor infusions will help mesh the science of food and food molecular gastronomy and bring foodies to new levels. But, they say the trends here in the US will be more health conscience, with a return of more classics, “free-from” menus and still more disclosure. Check out this article for more information.

According to the list from The Huff Post of upcoming trends, they see more French dips (hopefully on good bread) less food trucks and more pretzels! Yes! You know, you probably want to get in on this trend early. Luckily, I can help you. What you NEED, yes need is the Abel & Schafer fpretzel mix (22110) or base (33110). No other way to go. The James Beard Foundation's list sees more movement in the local/foraging sector, cupcakes sharing room with caneles (I would LOVE that) and still more doughnuts. You know, you probably want to get in on the ground floor of this trend too. What you NEED…oh yes, need, is one of our Abel & Schafer donut mixes. From cake, yeasted, Parve and Berliners we can help, we’ve got it all, and you'll be the trendy bakery! They also say to keep a look out for smaller portion sizes, more black market foods, fresher foods with less preservatives for a more natural taste and rise of the Peruvian cuisine. Personally, I think we should focus on doughnuts, pretzels and yes, smaller portions. If I’m going to increase my consumption of delicious sweet goods, I’m going to NEED, yes need someone else to control these portions sizes. It’s not that I don’t have will power. It’s that I don’t have will power.

Have a Yule That's Cool!

Are you superstitious? I’m not. When I broke a mirror 1,962 days ago, I knew I wasn’t going to have seven years of bad luck. I know that in 593 days my life won’t change. I look for four leaf clovers and pots of gold because I’m Irish, I don’t need luck and the collection of heads up pennies I find…hey, free penny. Anyway, did you know Yule logs were originally thought to determine your luck? From what I’ve read on them, there are a few variations on the theme. One is for the Yule log to bring good luck, it had to catch fire on the first attempt or ALL people who lived in the home would suffer bad luck. Another is the remains of the burnt log had to be kept for the next year’s lighting, and this would extend through multiple generations, the ashes would protect the owners from lightening strikes and evil spirits.

The Yule festival was originally a Pagan tradition that was celebrated in December and January to honor the winter solstice. Vikings and Scandinavians would go hunting for the best oak log and bring it back and burn it in respect to their gods and in celebration of life. So how did the oak log transition to the Vienna sponge cake? One thought I read is that it was created by the French in response to a large number of families who didn’t have fireplaces to burn an oak log but wanted to celebrate the tradition, which, like all delicious French things do, spread to the states. The best ones are made with Vienna Sponge Cake. And the best Vienna Sponge Cake is made from Abel & Schafer’s Vienna Sponge Cake Mix (22028). You know it’s true! Check out the brochure for Vienna Sponge Cake, it has instructions for Vienna Sponge Cake, Jelly Rolls, and Italian Rum Cake...HERE. Share your pictures if you are making a Yule Log!! I want to see!!
More Yule info...? Go here. Pictures are from here and here.

A Pear Tree

Do you like pears? I’m not a huge pear person…I don’t like them dried, poached, or in the canned mixed fruit, or on a plane or in a train, you get the picture. But on occasion, usually in September and October I love a really juicy pear. A really yellow, moments away form being over-ripe Bartlett. But not gritty or stringy just SO juicy that when your teeth sink into it with no resistance from flesh or fruit, juices flow down your hand and onto your wrist. Your lips glisten with a honey sweetness and the sweet smell overwhelms your senses.

Anyway, I’ve never had a Warren pear but apparently it blends the best of all its ancestors and is spectacular for baking. Its “intensely sweet, rich, spicy” flavor can’t be beat. It’s even been praised by some names we all know, Ms. Alice Waters, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey. And between the food and retail world you have basically got all bases covered with those three. Its origins are interesting including bacterial disease, winter chill and the Seckel. The Warren pear isn’t common, one reason being that it takes 5 years for pear trees to bear fruit so growers typically stick to what they know works. But I wish more growers would! I want to try this smooth,sweet and complexly flavored fruit, claiming to have flavors with hints of guava, pineapple and honey. I think I’d eat this pear poached, in a tart or straight from the tree. Or in a box or with a fox...

To read more about the Warren pear, go here!