Pretty Little Cakes

To kick off our busy season in the bakery department, I had a wedding cake and a gender reveal cake to bake this weekend. Both pretty little cakes. I predict a busy summer in our future! -MM

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Cranky Bakery Manager

bakery42

I am so looking forward to the next two days off. In the food service industry two days off feels like a vacation!

I love my job but there are days my body is screaming at me when I get home. I lost two bakers the week of Easter and it has been just me and another baker carrying the entire department until I get the new baker I hired properly trained.

I think at least once in their life, everyone should work in the food service/ grocery industry. Sometimes I get the impression that some customers think that the person behind the deli counter or the person stocking the shelves is uneducated.  Actually a lot of the people I have met in this industry are educated, and many have advanced degrees. My step-children both have degrees and both are working for Frito-Lay. Our Dairy/Frozen Manager has a degree in marketing. I myself have an Associates in Science.

Have any of you ever worked in the food service industry? Was it a part-time job when you were a teen or have you worked in it as an adult?

I would love to hear your stories! -MM

Prepping Mixes-Chocolate Chip Cookies

In the food service industry, prepping is crucial. Preparing ahead of time cuts your time in half when it comes to cooking for a crowd or getting ready for a party.

I have created more than a dozen dry mixes that I use in the bakery every day. I am going to share these mixes and the recipes to bake the finished products through the next few weeks.

Cookie mixes are my favorite because all you have to do is grab a couple bags of the mix, add eggs, some kind of oil (butter, shortening or oil) a little water and some vanilla and voila! In less than 10 minutes you’re scooping dough onto a cookie sheet. Sounds easy doesn’t it? It is!

Essentially what you are doing with these mixes is preparing the dry ingredients to your recipes ahead of time which is a real time saver especially if you prep multiple batches.

For the chocolate chip cookie dry  mix you will need:

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

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1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar

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The two sugars make up your first bag

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Twist tie the bag and set aside

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Next you will need 4-1/2 cups of all purpose flour

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2 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of baking soda

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This makes up your second bag.

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That’s it! Easy right? The reason we keep the sugar separate from the flour is that in most recipes it calls for the sugars to be creamed with the shortening and egg. Then you add the other dry ingredients so it is easier to have to separate bags.

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At the bakery I build to 6 mixes per recipe. In other words for this chocolate chip recipe I would make enough dry mix for 6 batches of cookies. At home for the 3 of us I would probably make 3 batches to store away for later use.

Now when you want to make a batch of cookies here is the rest of the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Dump the bag of brown and white sugars into a mixer bowl and add 2 cups of shortening, a 1/4 cup of water and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Cream these ingredients with a mixer or by hand with a sturdy spoon. Next add 4 large eggs and mix in until incorporated.

Next, dump the second bag with the flour, soda and salt into the bowl with the creamed ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Do Not Over Mix! Then by hand add 4 cups of chocolate chips and fold in until just incorporated.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets. If you want more uniform cookies use a spring action ice cream scoop to form the dough and drop onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until browned and not wet in the middle.

Here is the full recipe:

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 cups of shortening

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup water

4 large eggs

4-1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 tsp of salt

2 tsp of baking soda

4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

This recipe makes 4 doz good sized cookies.

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Here is a pic of my shelves at the bakery.

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On these shelves I have mixes for chocolate crinkle cookies, snickerdoodle, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, ginger snap, cornbread, frosted sour cream cookies, oatmeal cookies, scones, chocolate chocolate chip cookies, jam thumbprints, and peanut butter cookies.

I will be sharing more mix recipes over the next few weeks so watch for more.

Also you can take your own recipes and make mixes out of them like I did. It makes life a whole lot easier when you have something already prepared in the pantry. -MM

 

Geraniums, Pop Bottle Garden Update and Food Waste in the Bakery Department

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Geraniums

This time of year I am so happy that I dug up my geraniums and brought them in for the winter. A few posts ago I talked about these beauties and now they are in full bloom! What an encouraging lift they are for me every day. I hope to be using these plants as accents this weekend when we host our Church’s Easter Sunrise Service at our home. Stay tuned.

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Pop Bottle Garden Update

My pop bottle experiment has gone fabulously! I have replanted all 24 tiny basil seedlings into their own individual space using two biodegradable cardboard egg cartons. Free and easy container space which of course I love.

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The other seeds I tried in the pop bottle soon overtook their spaces blowing off the tops of the bottles within a few weeks. A single tomato plant and zucchini squash were my next experiments. I might have to plant them into another pot instead of waiting until May to set them out. What do you think?

I will definitely be using this method next year for starting my seeds. It worked flawlessly.

Food Waste in the Bakery Department

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As you can imagine grocery stores have a lot of food waste every day. To the left is an example of what I pulled off the bakery shelves on a typical Friday morning. Luckily not all of what is pictured in the cart is thrown out. Not yet anyway. We reduce our out of date items and give our customers a chance to purchase them at a lower cost. After that, if items are not sold on the reduced rack then yes, they will end up in the trash. Sad huh?

On a good note though, our store does donate many items that are coming close to their expiration dates to local food pantries and other organizations that will gladly take them.

The bakery and deli departments have another unique way we use items that are damaged or otherwise considered unsellable to the general public. We make stuff with them. What kind of stuff? Yummy stuff!

Every morning the produce man comes around to the bakery and deli departments to see if we can use any of their day’s freshly pulled damaged or undesirable items. Deli usually grabs the tomatoes and peppers and lettuce and re-purposes them using them in salads and the hot foods case for lunch.

Bakery on the other hand can use just about any of the produce. Carrots get ground and used in cakes and muffins, Cranberries get made into coffee cakes, peppers, squash, and asparagus get made into quiche, and of course apples get made into pies. How glorious! This week we got berries. Lots and lots and LOTS of berries. Over ten cases of strawberries in fact. “What the heck do I do with all of these cases of strawberries?” I said to my store manager.

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I made lots of things with these strawberries. Scones, fruit breakfast bars, filling for cakes, and finally freezer jam. Yep when you are drowning in berries make jam. I made freezer jam because it was easy and quick. Nine, 16 oz. jars. Yippee! I use the jam in my thumbprint cookies which I bake a lot of. I still have a 5 gallon pail of frozen cut-up strawberries in the freezer to use in the future.

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So you might ask why produce had so many bad berries? Many times they arrive that way on the truck. They come in too ripe or too damaged to sell. We get credit from the warehouse on anything that is damaged or not up to par. Instead of throwing them in the dumpster we try to use them. I love turning items that would normally wind up in the trash into something wonderful. What can I say I am a sucker for a freebie! -MM