Reuse, Recycle, Renew Your Appetite: “Upcycling” Cooking Boo-Boos

If you’re like me, you HATE throwing away good food. The more you need to toss, the more you hate it. So imagine the loathing that accompanies needing to compost an entire 20×30″ pan of overbaked brownies, for example. This tragedy plays out all too commonly in commercial kitchens.

But it doesn’t have to!

At Holly B’s Bakery, we are becoming (we modestly think) the masters of up-cycling “useless” food. Let me give you three scrumptious examples.

Example #1: those overbaked brownies. We tossed them in the Cuisinart with a little butter to glue them back together, then pressed them into a buttered pan as a pre-baked crust…which we then proceeded to top with dulce de leche cheesecake filling. Sprinkle with sea salt…bake…heaven.

Honestly, it’s more like cheesecake frosting on a brownie. Only more so.

Example #2: over-toasted Cappucino Bars (our name for espresso shortbread with tiny chocolate chips and a cinnamon-espresso glaze). Once more into the “Cuize” with…wait for it…a glob of ganache (a.k.a. the essence of a truffle: dark chocolate melted with whipping cream). And a healthy dash of Kahlua. Form into balls, dip into more (much more!) ganache with toothpicks, and voila…Kahlua Truffle Balls.

Even better than they look. Seriously.

Example #3 isn’t due to an overbake, but rather a scraps problem. When you cut croissants from dough, you end up with bits. Lots of bits. What to do with them? After only a couple of weeks of croissant-making, we were drowning in bits.

Too…many…bits!

So…we baked them. Note: please force yourself past this part of the process. If you stop here and just start eating warm croissant bits, all is lost. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Mmmm…the bits…the bits are calling me. DON’T GIVE IN.

Once baked and cooled, we bag them and freeze them until it’s time to make strata. Guess what? It’s always time to make strata.

Strata before…

Strata = croissant bits (Most people just use stale bread–I recommend this! Much healthier. A little less delicious.) + beaten eggs + a little milk or cream + tomatoes (fresh, canned or dried) + cooked greens of any kind + sauteed onions and mushrooms + mozzarella. Topped with Parmesan. Baked till brown and bubbly.

Strata after. Yes please.

And the best part is feeling so good about avoiding waste! No, I’m lying–the best part is eating your creation. But that no-waste thing is pretty cool.

So…what do you think? Pretty droolly, right? Got any delightful/delicious food-upcycles of your own to share?

Love & Butter & Luck: Yes, Island Life Is Sweet–Just Not Always Equally So

Our beautiful island and its sweet bakery, Holly B’s, were featured last week on Seattle’s KING 5 Evening Magazine. Here we are, lookin’ smooth:

http://www.king5.com/mb/entertainment/television/programs/evening/at-lopez-holly-bs-the-love-and-butter-legacy-lives-on/170800955

Seeing this take on my life of Love & Butter, I am struck by a couple of facts:

  • I am blessed to adore my job, but I only need to work part-time. There are plenty of folks on Lopez who work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
  • I am blessed to be able to do the hard physical work my job requires. I know many folks who, through illness, injury, age, or some combination of those simply cannot work where I work, no matter how much they would like to.
  • I am blessed with wonderful, supportive, easygoing co-workers & boss. How many folks I know who cannot say that!
How we roll...(photo by Stephanie Smith, Boss Extraordinaire)

How we roll…(photo by Stephanie Smith, Boss Extraordinaire)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Love & Butter, yes–but also sheer, dumb luck. I try very hard not to take that for granted.

 

 

Oh Boy, Another Life Lesson: My Love-Hate Relationship With French Macarons

Am I the only one out there who HATES doing things I’m not good at?

Hatesss it, Precious.

It’s the reason I don’t play volleyball. Or badminton. Or softball. No one ever taught me the fundamentals, therefore I fundamentally SUCK at all three. [Softball, are you kidding me? That ball hurts when you catch it wrong! I’ll stick with cross-country, thanks.]

This attitude, I just this week realized, extends far beyond the playing field and into the kitchen. I’ve always shrugged my shoulders at French cooking, after a youthful flirtation with Julia Child. “Too fussy,” I’ve always said. “Too many steps.” For decades, I’ve stuck with American, which in my case means about a third Asian, a third Mexican, and a third Mutt food. [Can you say tuna-cheddar eggrolls with spicy salsa?] 

And dessert? German, baby. Or good old American PIE.

You’ve heard me bitch about the new croissant dough we’ve been making at Holly B’s Bakery. My boss and I have taken to calling it “Croissant-fit” and joking about charging people to come make it for us–free workout, folks! But the actual steps of croissants aren’t tricky to follow. All you need is muscle.

Enter the French Macarons. Not the coconut thingies; these macarons are made with ground-up almonds and egg whites and sugar and human tears. We’ve never made them at my bakery before, and we’re getting a lot of compliments on them. But they make me hate my life.

These little boogers. (photo by Stephanie Smith)

These little boogers. Gluten-free. Also evil. (photo by Stephanie Smith)

They are notoriously, ridiculously, insanely picky to make. The ingredients have to be not just measured but weighed. Don’t even think of starting to beat your egg whites until your boiling sugar has reached 239 degrees–but don’t let it go past 244. And that’s just the mixing. Then the plopping-out-of-the-pasty-bag part (can you tell I’m new at this? I’m sure there’s a French word for it) is the trickiest of all.

Don’t squeeze out too much. Don’t tilt your bag. Don’t hold it too high or press too low. Don’t drag the tip. Don’t swirl. Just…DON’T.

The other day when I got done trying to follow these directions, my boss noticed my face or my body language or my general loathing of existence. “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” she said kindly. “They’re hard.”

“I just HATE not being good at this,” I blurted. And there it was. Gretchen the Proud Pie Maven has met her match in a crumby little cookie. Steep learning curve in baking? Moi? 

So THAT’s why I’ve avoided French cooking all these years!

Watching the little suckers in the oven, I confess to feeling some pride despite myself. Hey, they’re puffing! They’re not cracking! Okay, most of ’em have “nipples” where I dragged the pastry bag tip, but look, there’s a smooth one! Kinda cute really…maybe a nice lemon butter cream in there…or cinnamon…?

So, yeah. Another Life Lesson, at age fifty-something. If you force yourself to do something you’re not good at, two things happen: 1) you get humble, and 2) you improve. And both of those things are good.

Bring on the macarons. But please let me keep making pie too. A girl’s got her pride.

Happy Independence Day! God Bless America. Now, If You’ll Excuse Me…

You know that feeling in the swimming pool when you take a deep breath to fill your lungs enough to swim underwater to the far end of the pool?

Right now, that “pool” = Fourth of July Week. The “swimmers” are me and my cohorts at Holly B’s Bakery (where “Holly’s Buns Are Best”). And that “deep breath”? That’s this blog post. My way of saying Happy Fourth! and I’ll see you in a week.

For those of you new to Wing’s World, here are some pix I posted a year ago showing the mayhem pre-Fourth prep in our tiny bakery world:

dough
On a normal July Saturday we’ll sell 120 croissants. On the Fourth, it’ll be nearly three times that. We’ve been making and freezing croissant dough every day for the past two weeks.

cinn rolls

Did I say 15 pans, last year? Make that 21. Who knows what it’ll be this year, now that Lopez Island has made National Geographic’s Top 40 Places list? (#6, yet. Yup. Here they come.)

#1

In order to get all this food out by the time we open @ 7 on July 4 and not instantly sell out, we bakers will be starting at 2 am. Am I going to ride my bike in to work that morning? Yes I am–but from the house of a friend who lives half a mile away. Hey, I’m dedicated, not STUPID.

Because, as on most lovely ocean-y spots, those of us who live here will all be hosting family and friends this weekend. Of course we will! It’s how it ought to be. And I can’t wait to be doing this:

Croissants? Meh. Pass me another s'more!

Croissants? Meh. Pass me another s’more!

and this…

My bakery doesn't make pies. All the more reason for me to make 'em at home!

My bakery doesn’t make pies. All the more reason for me to make ’em at home!

at home, in between bakery shifts.

I will be one happy, tired, but HAPPY puppy. Finishing Chapter 13 of my next book? Won’t be happening. Selling Books 1 and 2 at the Lopez Farmers Market? Nope–not till later this month. And one more thing I won’t be doing, in the upcoming underwater swim through a pool of love & butter–blogging. I’ll catch y’all next week.

The Flying Burgowski will be back after a short break...

The Flying Burgowski will be back after a short break…

So meantime, happy Independence Day, everyone! Let’s love our families, treat our friends, honor the our freedom…and have another s’more.

The Best Mothers Day Present: When Your Kid Becomes Your Colleague–and You Still Like Each Other

My Mothers Day started with a three a.m. bike ride, and it was Son Two’s idea.

He’s just been hired to work part-time this summer at Holly B’s Bakery (“Holly’s Buns Are Best”)  where I’ve been working for the past five years. He’ll mostly be working the counter and, later on during high season, baking at night. But this Mothers Day, a slot came open for assistant morning-baking. Son Two filled it.

“Can we ride in?” he asked. Now, I know your average almost 23 year-old is not his/her best self at 3 a.m., even when pulling some kind of all-nighter. Asking one to wake up then, bundle up and bike 11 miles in the dark, well…I wouldn’t have asked. But since he offered? Hell yeah! Let’s ride!

Son Two’s reward: getting to spend the next nine hours having his Head Baker mom tell him what to do. He did fantastic.

Making croissant dough: roll, butter, fold, chill, repeat.

Making croissant dough: roll, butter, fold, chill, repeat.

He messed up not once (which is more than I can say for my first disastrous pan of brownies assistant baking shift). He made beautiful food. And on our ride home, he told me he appreciated my showing him how to do things right.

Young Man With Macaroons

Young Man With Macaroons

Breakfast in bed is great. So is going out for brunch. But my best Mothers Day present EVER is the realization that my younger son is someone I would hire or sign up to work with, even if I’d never met the kid. I mean man.

Like mother, like son? I should be so lucky.

Like mother, like son? I should be so lucky.

Mothers Day stories, anyone? I love hearing from you!

Happy “Independence” Day to All You Small Business Owners…Bless Your Hearts!

When I left teaching to become a baker, some of my former students were confused. “How’s your bakery?” I would sometimes see on Facebook.

Well, they were half right. I do feel like it’s MY bakery, especially when I unlock the doors at oh-dark-thirty and turn our oven on. But in truth, Holly B’s Bakery (“Holly’s Buns Are Best”) is not MINE…for which I thank my lucky stars. Especially at this time of year.

For a little bakery in a town with a tourist-dependent economy, July Fourth is Black Friday and the post-Christmas sales all wrapped up in one buttery croissant. Or make that 250 croissants.

Our kitchen is TINY. Three bakers have to squeeze past each other. We have only one oven. But the food must be baked! Here, I’ll try to give you some visuals:

#1

cinn rolls

dough

full racks

overflow 1

overflow 2

Can you imagine the planning all this bounty requires? The ordering, the scheduling, the storage? What if you get it wrong? What if you run out of chocolate chips? What if you bake too many pesto baguettes and not enough of the olive tapenade? What if you make too much? What if you don’t make enough?

How does Holly ever sleep in late June (let alone continue to be the World’s Nicest Boss)???

baguettes

Holly’s oldest son, Ty, is now co-owner (and the World’s Second Nicest Boss). Maybe it eases the stress to have someone to plan with. I sure hope so!

bread rack

I LOVE my job. I love “my” bakery. But around Independence Day, I am extra-super grateful that I’m fairly “independent” of the stress of being in charge, and I take my hat off to all those brave souls who carry that load.

last

Happy Independence Day, business owners! Now go get some sleep.

Danish

How ’bout you? Do you own your own business? ARE you your own business? Or do you have that in your family? How do people COPE????