Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Well, we managed to get the Cafe Press Store started. There are only a few things in there right now, with just one image, but that will change.
We do have more images and such to add - as soon as I can get the software for the scanner to run on Windows XP. My scanner is still an exceptionally good one, but the software is for Windows '95.
As far as I can tell, from their website, the scanner company doesn't make software and drivers for this scanner for Windows XP. If I can't do some jiggling with the codes (and I am no computer geek - my coding days ended with BASIC and COBOL), I may have to either buy a new scanner or borrow a friend's scanner. All my friends with scanners live in other states.
This will be a fun odyssey.
Anyway, as soon as we can finagle a scanner, more nifty Cracked Cauldron items will appear. Just click on the button in the sidebar to get to the Cafe Press site.
As a side note - the Devonshire Splits make good sandwich buns - just right for most meat salads: tuna, chicken, turkey, ham, even egg. Herring Salad is not right, though.
I mean really not right.
Now, to see if the images for the calender will upload properly, and check the mail for responses to my query letters for the book.
And we're still waiting to hear back from the owner of that building we found that's been empty for more than a year.
So, things are moving, just very slowly.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
A Devonshire Split, filled with whipped cream and Sour Cherry Butter. I didn't have any raspberry jam left after the raspberry brownies.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
What's left of the raspberry brownie with swirly chips. The shiny stuff on the left side of the brownie is actually clusters of raspberries.
Sometimes, I spread fruit butters and jams on brownies, and decided to bake the fruit into the brownies.
The first effort, in the picture, was made with raspberries and raspberry jam and those new swirly chips. To make it with a fruit filling, you have to pour half the brownie batter into the pan, then carefully spread the fruit over that, then top with the rest of the brownie batter.
This is insanely troublesome because the jam doesn't like to spread well on the fluid batter, nor does the batter like to spread on top of the fruit, but the results are well worth it. I'm wondering if there isn't an easier way to do it - maybe by making them as filled bites instead of a bar?
Yes, maybe that will work - making them in the petit muffin tins or maybe - hah! madeleine pans! Yes - raspberry brownie madeleines!
OK, as soon as I score some more raspberry jam, I'll make lovely filled brownie madeleines.
In the meantime, drool over the raspberry brownie picture and anticipate the next culinary adventure as we experiment our way towards our Opening Day.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
You'll notice a small change on the sidebar - a donation button.
This isn't meant to co-erce donations out of you, but a number of people have asked how they can help get us open faster.
The best way is to find several small investors or a big investor who will buy stock. So far, we found one solid investor and many potential ones who haven't committed yet.
The next best way is to secure a loan. That is proving hard because both Manager and I are coming up from some fairly deep poverty. I hadn't realized just how poor we were until we started this. It was kind of a hard shock to realize that even though I think we're doing very well, according to all kinds of governemnt documents and bank referral sheets and such - we've been living below the poverty level for a very long time. But a low paying government job, and owning my own home (with equity, no less!), and having no outstanding debts other than the mortgage and college loans and monthly expenses doesn't make us a good credit risk.
Then, the next best way after that is to start marketing now. Within the next few days, you'll see a new button on that sidebar that will take you to our Cafe Press offerings: T-shirts (as large as Cafe Press will make them), aprons, mugs, travel mugs, and tote bags with unique art on them - and our name, of course! We'll have a calendar up, and soon a cookbook of yummy recipes.
We're also working on finding a publisher for our first year towards opening. This blog is being used by economics and business professors at several colleges, and a book format with all the behind-the-scenes stuff that doesn't get posted here (spread sheets, pro formas, correspondence, special recipes as they evolve, an index, and even more photos) will make a handy textbook for them to use in class. It will be much more convenient than logging on and scrolling through the archives to find things. Even if we can't find a regular publisher, we can still offer it through a POD publisher like Lulu.com.
The next way is to ask for donations towards our opening. And everyone who donates - when we reach opening, you'll get a special gift and be invited to a special "Investors Sneak Preview Opening Party", and if we can afford it, more things like maybe a button or T-shirt or mug or something that identifies you as an Cracked Cauldron Important Investor.
We can't guarantee it'll be a fast thing, but we will open.
So, between Manger offering her services as a Personal Chef, and the Donate Button and the Cafe Press and the books, we should be able to scrounge up enough money to open.
And we so hope to see as many of you there as can fit in - we'll stagger the shifts if we have to so we can meet all of you who have offered some really helpful advice over the past months - either directly or inadvertently through your own blogs. Trust me, we remember you all, and thank you from the bottom of our mixing bowls!
Chili poured over buttered cornbread. Yes, yes, there are beans in the chili because I like beans in my chili.
The mirepoix that will form half of the base of the beef and mushroom stew. The other half is the Tri-Mushroom Soup below.
Mushrooms and onions being sauteed before converting to soup. There are morels, woodears, and portobellos in there.
Monday, December 20, 2004
While it hasn't gotten cold yet, it is winter, and a time when people naturally seek warmth, especially in their food and drink.
Soups, casseroles, stews, hot ciders, mulled cranberry juices, hot cocoas, all those yummy things.
Well, over the weekend, I redid the tri-mushroom soup, and I have to say, less mushroom is better. At least, I think so.
I used morels, wood ears, and portobellos diced fine and sauteed with onion in unsalted butter. A scatter of flour made it thick and clumpy, which I thinned with a rich broth and then thinned further with white wine.
I still hate it as a soup all by itself, although I had undying love declared over it. That's because I hate mushrooms.
A good cook can cook things they hate so well other people swoon with delight.
I think I'll take what's left of this mushroom soup and use it to make a hunter's stew: venison, carrots, potatoes, juniper berries, and a tantalizing dash of tarragon. It should make a really good stew, and I can always pick out the mushrooms, right?
Thursday, December 16, 2004
More cookies for shipping out. From left to right: sugar cookies, strawberry pinwheels, white chocolate orange drops, cranberry pinwheels, and soft pumpkin spice cookies.
The ingredients for making a Turkey Handpies: provolone, cheddar, turkey, onions, wrapped in phyllo daough with herbs and baked.
Manager's work car - in the snow that was all melted by sunrise. That's the sort of snow we get around here.
The last batch of boxes of cookies we are giving out to working homeless hereabouts. It's not just cookies inside - we've included coupons for doing laundry and for personal grooming - not cents off, but the whole thing.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
We have the PayPal account verified finally. The process took longer than a personal PayPal account would.
With that verified and available for use now, we quickly got a Cafe Press account.
Within the next few days, we'll be able to offer mugs, buttons, bumper stickers, aprons, and T-shirts from the Cracked Cauldron.
The Calender is presenting a few problems, but should be up later this month. We're making it an 13 month calender so the delay won't be as devastating to calender buyers.
Part of the delay on the calender is the change in opening dates and removing all the coupons and special events from it based on our old opening date. Part of it is the possibility of opening as a CoffeeHouse only next month
See, last night, we found a building in the area where we hope to have the physical Cracked Cauldron that we could possibly rent. It's small, but plenty large enough to open first as a coffeehouse. The best thing about the location is that it's immediately across the street from a private college. The street it's on gets 27,000 drive-bys a day - one of the major east-west thoroughfares. It's 5 minutes from downtown and the State Capitol, making it a reasonable distance for those who have an hour for lunch.
It was formerly a florist's, so it already has a walk-in cooler, the sink system the Health Department requires, and the rest would be inexpensive enough to adapt.
If the rent is reasonable, we may have the coffeeshop open next month.
Oh yes, it would be vastly scaled down from our original plans.
There's a company that provides a "coffeehouse in a box" (actually, there's several, but we checked them out and like this one the best), and this one doesn't require we use their product once we use up what comes with. This is a Good Thing because we already have selected our coffee, tea, and other beverage suppliers.
So, what will we offer?
Coffee, of course. We'll go with a couple of small roasters because they have consistently good coffee - Specialty Coffee Association of America good. Far superior to what is available locally.
We'll have chai because it's popular and we have some outstanding recipes for making it from our friends who are from India.
We'll have only a few juices to start with, orange and apple, because they are the top selling juices and they'll go well with the goodies we'll offer.
Sodas because they sell.
Milk because we need it for the coffees and teas anyway - and because people drink it.
Hot cocoas, because we'll already have the ingredients on hand.
Our herb teas will be simples and special blends we make.
And we'll have our cookies and cheesecakes. No breads, or pies, or cakes yet. That's for the expansion.
And the soups, because they are a really high profit item that will sell - especially if we open in January - the coldest time of the year.
Each of these items presents us with at least an 80% profit margin, which we can save towards expansion.
We'll see how things work out.
So, that's why the Calender is still on hold.
In the meantime, we should have the Cafe Press offerings up in the next day or so.
Unless, of course, we've overestimated how easy it is to get established at Cafe Press (as we did for Pay Pal).
We have some marvelous art we bought from a very good artist (we bought all distribution rights from her as well) that will appear on the items we'll put up through Cafe Press. Just wait until you see the logo she designed for us!
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Cookie Day itself was a success. Shipped cookies arrived in time, both directions. We went to D. and D.'s house for the actual celebration, as they have children. Many cookies were shared, and many eaten.
When we open the physical location of Cracked Cauldron, we will continue this tradition among our customers, with a special commemorative button and T-shirt and carry out boxes and bags.
We think more people in the world need to celebrate the sheer pleasure of a Cookie Day.
It's not really religious, it crosses all ethnic and cultural barriers (I haven't met a culture yet that didn't have some form of cookie or small bite sized treat that could pass for a cookie), and nothing bonds people together better than a box of cookies.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Manager has enough funds to keep the Cracked Cauldron afloat for 5 more months.
In that time, she'll either establish as a Personal Chef (so far, she's only had party type clients, one-offs, and not many of those), or we'll find an inexpensive place and open as a coffeehouse to begin with, and expand from there.
Depending on location, we can open as a coffee house for under $20,000.00, and still offer very good cookies, small cakes, tarts, meat pies and soups.
No breads. Bread requires the expensive mixers, ovens, proofers, and retarders.
Coffeehouses also have less strict health code requirements to meet.
And just to tempt you, a recipe:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup lavender buds
1 cup unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 325º. If you have hot spots in yout oven, put a baking stone in on the bottom rack and let the oven heat for at least 45 minutes. Mix the flour and sugar together, cut in the butter, then knead lightly, kneading in the lavender buds. Roll the dough out thickly - 1/3 - 1/2 inch. Either score it to break apart after baking or cut it with small cookie cutters. We like to cut the dough into small squares, then press the tops with a cookie stamp.
Place the cookies on baking parchment, or lightly grease a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
These delicately perfumed shortbreads are excellent accompanied by Earl Grey tea, or Prince of Wales or Honeybush or rosehip. Other flavors of tea will clash with the perfume of the lavender shortbread. And coffee just doesn't go with this at all. However, a warm almond milk seems to complement it nicely.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
The Personal Chef Network manager joined is doing a cookie exchange with other personal chefs, and sending a box of cookies to a charity - just up our line for another celebration of Cookie Day.
So Manager baked more cookies last night, sugar cookies and frosted pumpkin ones. No pics, because like a dork I forgot to snap them.
Besides, I think something is wrong with the camera. It's supposed to auto-focus, and you can tell it's not doing that. I'm going to have to dig into the menu on the camera and see if some setting or other changed, and that means getting the manual out of storage.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Sugar drops. Almost the opposite of Hot Drops: soft, sweet, and fluffy. Hot drops are searingly hot, with that chewy/crispy thing going on.
Close-up of cookies that aren't shippable, and will be used for our local celebration of Cookie Day.
Cranberry Tarts Or whatever name we end up calling them
a double recipe of your favorite sturdy pie crust (the oil recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook is good)
1 package dried cranberries
the peel from one medium sized lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Roll out the pie crust and cut into an equal number of rounds. If you have a small Tart Master tart maker, this is ideal, because it will cut the rounds for you and later you can use it to seal the cookies together. If not, a fork works well to crimp them shut.
Toss the cranberries with the lemon peel and lemon juice, then toss with the cinnamon and brown sugar. If you reverse this, it will come out lumpy.
Place 1 teaspoon filling on half the rounds you cut out. Cover each one with a remaining round, and crimp shut. Brush the tops with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the colored sugars in decorative patterns. I used half green, half red for the season.
Bake at 400º for 20 minutes.
Let them cool completely before eating, because hot cranberries will sear your tongue. I speak from experience.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Although they look a lot like the raspberry almond pinwheels, these are plum pecan ones. Look down for a comparison photo.
On the left are the plum pecan pinwheels, on the right, the raspberry almond, so you can see the difference.
The more I use those alternative milks, the better I like them - all except the soy, of course - and that only because of allergies. I used hazelnut milk in the recipe for the fruit and nut filled pinwheel cookies, and it added a depth of flavor not otherwise possible. The recipe called for the addition of milk to make hte cookie tender and crisp, so I used hazelnut milk, thinking the almond milk would be too overpowering. I think I made a good choice. This cookie is crisp and tender, and the flavor is exceptional.