The Short List
I love when people ask me about baking. Not “How’s the business?” or “Can I talk to you about a marketing opportunity?” – more like, “Why do you spray that simple syrup on the cake?” and “How much salt is in your bread recipe?”
I’ve learned from these questions that I have a difficult time staying objective when it comes to various baked goods. There are certain things I love to make, and a few that I really don’t. That being said, let this list in no way deter you from ordering these things – the delight of making customers happy far outweighs the delight of baking even my favorite things. So here’s the short list of favorites and deplorables (thanks for the word, Hillary).
1. Chocolate Ganache
Why? Well. It’s delicious. When you eat it you think, “Do I deserve this?” When it’s just made, it’s this giant liquid pool of chocolate that you can imagine the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” version of yourself belly flopping into. I might just replace the words “indulgent” or “rich” or “excessive” in my vocabulary to “ganache”. If ganache had a slogan, it would be
There’s another reason. It’s SUPER easy to make. It’s so great, I’m going to (GASP) give you the recipe. The way we remember it is “3-2-1”.3 cups of heavy cream, 2 pounds of semi-sweet chocolate, 1 pound of butter. And then a pinch of salt – but that’s kinda optional.We bring the cream to a rising boil on the stove, dump it over the pound of chocolate, stir it around until it’s mostly melted, add the butter in chunks, stir that around until it’s all combined. And VOILA! Ganache.
And one more reason. It’s one of the most versatile things we make. Use it to drip over a cake, top eclairs, or douse cheesecake. Mix it with white chocolate buttercream to make the BEST chocolate icing ever. Fill cupcakes with it. Make mousse out of it. And I could keep going.
2. Sticky Buns The most satisfying part of my early morning in the bakery? Pulling sticky buns out of the oven and flipping them over the reveal the best-smelling and most perfectly ooey gooey set of buns you’ll ever see. It’s wonderful. And what makes it even better is the process.
Have you ever done something so many times that it’s just second-nature? The sticky bun recipe is one I know by heart, and it makes me feel like a real-deal baker every time I put the ingredients together. Then there’s the rhythm of rolling it out, filling it, cutting it up, and placing it in its pans. It’s the kind of thing you can do to with a solid beat in the background and imagine you’re in some kind of montage about how awesome your life is.
Then there’s the sentimental reason this makes my faves – every time I make them I think of my Grandma. When we were first getting started, she came to my kitchen and taught me the family recipe, all the time telling me how her mother taught her. And every time our sticky buns or cinnamon rolls get a compliment, I’m eager to give credit where it is due. Grandma Ruby, you’re the best.
This one isn’t because I always love the process. It’s lengthy and sometimes inconvenient and frustrating. I love bread because there is a whole world of bread that I still get to explore. It challenges me, it takes study and practice, and each day it keeps me super humble. It still makes my heart race on the days when it has a perfect bake. Bread has kept me most intrigued out of all the baking we do. I was the kind of girl who took four advanced placement (AP) classes her senior year even though she wasn’t going to college. Bread is my bakery AP course.
And then there’s the romance of bread. Picturing it on a family’s dinner table is my favorite thing. It’s not indulgent and just for special occasions – it’s an everyday part of people’s lives. Even at the most deprived times in our history, people survived on bread and water. I know how to make something that sustains life and brings wellness to people, and that’s a really good thought.
the not faves
1. Red. Freaking. Velvet.
Do you realize what gets dumped in a red velvet cake? A whole two ounce container of red food coloring. That’s what. I usually do less than that, but most recipes call for it. Yuck. Gross. WHY?!
Let me be clear, it’s not that I dislike velvet cake. I actually really like the concept of velvet cake. It’s made special by added a small bit of cocoa to soften the flour, and the buttermilk, baking soda, and vinegar reaction that gives it a tighter crumb and smoother texture. And you could easily make velvet cake without the red food coloring. BUT – no one would buy it. When people cut into a red velvet cake, they expect that vibrant red color.
The original “red” did not come from red food coloring, but was really a tip of the hat to the dark brick-red color that a lighter chocolate cake would produce, and named mahogany. But then Mr. John A. Adams, an extract and food coloring entrepreneur, needed a new marketing scheme.
“After Congress passed the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938, shoring up regulations for food coloring, Mr. Adams figured he could sell a lot more extracts and dyes, and a red cake would be just the way to do it. Sometime in the 1940s, the company tricked out a mahogany cake recipe with food coloring, printed it on cards and began plans to merchandise it alongside bottles of vanilla, red dye and artificial butter flavoring, which was popular when butter was rationed during World War II.” (SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/dining/red-velvet-cake-from-gimmick-to-american-classic.html)
Every time I make a red velvet cake, I tell Mr. Adams how much I dislike his marketing choices. Really, though, I should respect the fact that he created a cultural phenomenon and how brilliant a business-man he was. But seriously. RED DYE?!
2. Cake Pops
Okay, so admittedly, they’ve grown on me. If you would have talked to me 4 months ago, they’d be at the tippy top of the list of things I despise.
Whenever you see cake pop tutorials online, they bake a cake and then instantly crumble it up. Every time I see this, a little part of me dies. Why would you bake a beautiful cake and then trash it? I told myself early on that I refuse to bake a cake only to destroy its structure.
Then there’s another issue – I don’t like eating them. Even when made with the best cake, best icing, and best chocolate. They are what I consider the lowest form of cake. It goes in this order:
Literally any other form of cake
There is one redeemable quality about cake pops – they can be made from scraps. When assembling a layer cake, there is sometimes a lot of waste from leveling the cake. For a long time, I didn’t know what to do with these scraps other than throw them away, or offer them up to kitchen scavengers (AKA my Dad, husband, employees, or siblings) to be eaten. Now, I save them and make cake pops out of them. This is a major plus. Also, kids love them. And they are easily decorated with some melted chocolate and sprinkles. So, yes, they’ve grown on me in the context of life in the bakery. (Credit to Kaitlyn – the bakery manager and bestie – who convinced me to start making them despite my hatred.)
That’s all for now, folks. One thing I love about being a baker is that the variety of things I get to create have nothing to do with how much I enjoy each bake. Saying “yes” to my customers’ requests is way more important to me than letting my personal preferences guide the business. Besides, it takes a village (thanks again, Hillary) to support a bakery - so it matters more what you want than what I want to produce. Besides, my preferences are changing all the time as I grow as a baker. I hope this list entertained you, educated you, and let you see a glimpse into life at Gable House.