I want to own a bakery. Well, at least that's what I tell myself. In reality, I just want it a warm, comforting, local, delicious kitchen that I can play around in and call it my job. I want to spend my days there, flour dusting my pants, greeting new friends and old, and making people happy, sharing in their everyday joys and special celebrations. I want wood floors, mismatched chairs, and an old upright piano in the corner so I can rip into "Rondo Alla Turca" whenever the desire strikes me.
I know, I know. Baking is hard work. Bad hours, worse pay. The piano would get covered in flour and I'd move it after six months just so I wouldn't have another thing to dust. I know all this. But last weekend to satisfy my curiosity, we checked out the old George's Bakery on Main in Mandan, which shut down a few years ago when George decided to retire after running the place for 40 years. The place was best known for doughnuts, kuchen, and free cookies for kids. George just passed away this year and his shop still sits dark, looking like he just locked it up yesterday. All the pans, shelves, and equipment are still there. There is still even writing up on the menu board. It's just waiting for someone to turn on the lights, heat up the oven, and get the place rolling again (and invest buku bucks to make it OSHA compliant).
One problem: I'm not really a great baker. In fact, I'd call myself a completely average baker.
Sure, I love baking, but enthusiasm only gets you so far. I'm actually a lazy baker, rarely using a timer and often eyeballing measurements - big no-nos in baking chemistry. Last night I tried making pie crust from a recipe rather than my usual eyeball method - and ended up throwing the mess in the garbage with disgust, leaving me crabby for the rest of the evening. Not a graceful reaction, I know.
Regardless of my slovenly baking style, for the past five years I've baked with the same questions always popping up in my mind: 'Would anyone buy this? Is this marketable? How can I make it better?'
So I do stuff like this. I made these cookies, making little changes to each pan and figuring out which one I like best and why.
#1: underbaked, to my hubby's delight. I'm not a fan, plus I think they look flat and squishy.
#2: parfait, in my opinion. A little crisp layer on the outside, and then chewy inside. Thick enough to hold its shape - I just wish it was a little prettier.
#3: a little overdone. I actually kinda like it this way too - the darkness adds a little caramel flavor, but it's dry on the edges, so no-go overall.
However, I don't think bakery customers are interested in buying this. Too simple, not cutesy enough. I think people want the cookie version of the Ace of Cakes - highly stylized, decorated, fondant-and-royal-icing covered. Package it. Market it. Give an experience. Meanwhile, I'm the chick who removes most of her frosting before eating the cake.
Regardless, in the heat of the moment, I went to Hobby Lobby. Dangerous, I know. I splurged on some decorating tools and have plans to make some cut-outs in the near future, despite the fact that I'm usually too practical to really get into decorating anything, preferring to pass out my gingerbread men sans decor in years past. But gotta explore these things, right?
In the meantime, check out the choc and pb chip cookie recipe here. I followed it almost to the letter, just omitting the white sugar. I ate an embarrassingly large amount of them, but it was all in the name of research, k?