Thursday, March 31, 2005
We'll be offering the cookbook, The Cauldron Crack'd, from the blacksmith's booth. Sample cookies will also be there.
Thing is, we told folks the booth would be at the south end of the Faire near Food Row. It was moved. It's still on the south end of the Faire, only now it's near the UCO Booth and the Scottish Compound on the western edge of the Faire. The portable ATM machines are right there, too.
There is another blacksmith up on the northeastern end of the Faire, and he's a very good one, but he's not the one we're imposing upon.
If you ask at the Faire Office, they'll know where we are.
Pictures will be posted shortly, but this weekend, shortly is only short to us. To you, it could be days.
Posting will be even skimpier over the next three days as the Faire starts tomorrow. Monday, we can offer a full update.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Y'all remember Tri-Pliny, the sourdough culture I got from Italy last month?
Well, like a bad pet owner, I gave him the wrong water and he proceeded to throw a fit.
Oklahoma tap water is usually pretty good. It's sweet, clear, and imminently drinkable even if it does kill aquarium fish. This time of year, though, the lake turns over. It does that twice a year, and we'll sediment in the water, and fish scales and other such oddities. This lasts about a week, and we usually buy bottled water (the cheap stuff) for drinking and cooking.
Eh, short story - I used tap water to feed Tri-Pliny instead of bottled water. He threw out sickly odors - ever smelled a wet mop that stayed wet for weeks on end and was never rinsed or cleaned? That nasty sweetish rank odor of not-quite-mold and really smelly feet? That was Tri-Pliny this morning.
So, I had to wash him down, scrub the nasty contamination out of the starter, and go for it again.
Fortunately, Tri-Pliny took as quickly to the washing as he did to the bad water, and he's setting up a lovely smell now, yeasty, a bit earthy, and slightly sweet. He responds really well to attention and care. I think he's going to be a high maintainence yeast beastie.
Still, I bet he'd make great ciabatta and foccacio and pizza.
I don't think I'm going to use him for the bread for MedFaire, though.
I'm going to use Heike and Onuri Ufa. Heike makes into my favorite German everyday Graubrot, and Onuri Ufa will do well as an herbed vegetable bread.
Onuri Ufa, actually, seems to like being close to Tri-Pliny and has taken on a new vigor. I know there's no cross contamination between the two, because they are kept in lidded jars. Onuri Ufa just likes Italians, I guess. There is a long history between Rome and Egypt after all.
Today I make the Banbury Tarts and meat pies we'll feast upon at MedFaire, and refrigerate them until we're ready to eat them.
I'll post pics because I plan to make the meat pies into pirate ships and castle turrets.
Since I'm not too concerned with historicity, I'll fill pirate ships with a potatoey beef stew and the turrets with a salmon and rice combination.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Starting at the top left: the negative cookie stamp, the positive cookie mold, and the first cookie made with the stamp. It worked!
As I was preparing to bake the cookies we'll be giving away at MedFaire, I was regretting not being able to find a cookie stamp for them.
Yes, I found lots of beautiful cookie stamps, and some of them will find their way into the Cracked Cauldron to shape cookies we'll be selling. But I couldn't find the cookie stamp. You know, the exact perfect one for us.
Then I had a duh! moment.
In all my years knocking about the world, I'd picked up some minor sculpting skills. I could easily make the cookie stamp I for which I was looking. It was a simple one: a square shape with a rounded cauldron in the middle, and a crack down it. You know, the cracked cauldron.
So I dashed out to the hobby store and bought a packet of Sculpey clay. At the dining table, I shaped out the cauldron, cut in the crack and set it on a small square.
Our cookie stamp!
OK. Actually, it wasn't quite that simple. First I had to make the positive sculpture and harden it. Then I had to use it to mold the negative stamp, and harden that. The negative is the stamp. When you press it down on the cookie dough, it forms the positive impression of the original sculpture.
I've used this method before to make wax sealing stamps and it worked very well. Converting it to cookie stamps was a simple step to make.
Why did it take me this long to even think about it?
Because I'm too narrowly focused at times. I was sure someone, somewhere, was selling what I wanted. That's why I kept looking at catalogues and stores and shopping around online.
I should have known if I wanted something that specialized, I would either have to commission it being made or make it myself.
So, as soon as hte first batch of cookies come out of the oven, I'll snap photos of the positive sculptire, the negative stamp, and the final cookie.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Yay! It's Friday!
That means it's the beginning of my "vacation".
I don't get any days off from working, I just get excused from one of my jobs so I can exchange it for another one for a few days. A working vacation.
For the next 12 days, I will be concetrating on MedFaire and the Cracked Cauldron, instead of my paying job (which is not the Cracked Cauldron - yet).
Yes, yes, I blatantly use my paid vacation time from my paying job so I can do volunteer work.
Anyway, After I plant out more tomatoes and peppers tonight, I get to start the happy chore of baking Fyne Cakes for MedFaire. I have several cookie stamps I will use to make impressions on the tops. I haven't found anyone yet who can make us a cookie stamp with a cracked cauldron on it, which would be seriously good.
However, we have found a company that will make bread marks, so when people buy a loaf of Cracked Cauldron bread, they'll know by the mark on the bottom that it's a genuine made-from-scratch bread from the Cracked Cauldron.
During this time, I also hope to upload more of our artwork into CafePress so we have a larger selection there. Our CFO has suggested aprons and tiles with recipes on them, so that's something I'll have time to work with and see how they come out.
Still, don't look for posts to be more frequent. Just because I'm not working doesn't mean I'm not busy!
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Manager met with an investment group yesterday, and they've asked for a second meeting.
This is the first group she's met with who approved of her unconventional opening hours and quickly overlooked her age when she was able to answer all of their questions confidently. And they liked that she displayed enthusiasm for her business as well as confidence.
The second meeting is to clarify a few more points and to get samples of her products.
The second meeting is scheduled for the day after MedFaire ends.
We will be sooo busy.
Starting this coming Monday, we'll be baking the sample cookies we will give away at MedFaire. We'll bake the Fyne Cakes and Gyngerbrede that are in The Cauldron Crack'd for that, and our signature Cauldron Cokies.
Then, for our volunteers and helpers, we're making Scottish Eggs, Banbury Tarts, Orange Cinnamon Rolls, Pumpkin Cookies, Sourdough (out of Heike or Penelope, most likely), Bacon Bread, and adding a roast shoulder of venison, some sausage, and some cheese and fruits. Our volunteers always eat well.
And during all of this, we must also plan the samples we'll present for the second investment meeting. Sunday morning, we can set the Bacon Bread and Pepperoni Bread to a slow rise and bake it that night. Sunday night, we can bake a Baklava Cheesecake, a bread pudding (with some of the leftover MedFaire bread - it will be just the right age for that), and possibly some small Chocolate Chai cakes. We'll need to include a muffin, a sweet pie, a savory pie, and a few other cookies to round out the sample basket. I'm not sure what we'll do for the beverages; we lack an espresso machine for making most of the coffee types. But we could provide a pot of brewed coffee, a couple of herbal teas, and a signature cocoa.
The newest trend in beverages is hot cocoa all year youd. It's not just for winter anymore! Our concept of having a Chocolate Sommelier was ahead of the trend (and is still cutting edge!).
So, busy days ahead.
I'll post pictures as we take them.
If you can't be here in person to enjoy the results of our activity, you can at least participate vicariously.
Monday, March 21, 2005
The print copies of the cookbook arrived, and they look very nice. We have quite a few for MedFaire, and y'all are more than welcome to buy a copy at Lulu.com. So far, the hands-down favorite recipes are the gingerbread recipe and the Rat Onna Stick. Although the Onion Soup with Cinnamon got second looks. I donated a copy to the library and most of the oohs and aaahs came from them as they flipped through the book.
There's already a waiting list for people to borrow it, so we're quite pleased with the response the book is getting. This is very encouraging for future books.
MedFaire is less than 2 weeks away. I'm pimping this Faire to all of you. If you can at all make this Faire, it is free and fun, and it would be cool to meet some of you in person. Those we haven't already met, that is.
We have several people helping out, and we currently plan to offer sample cookies (the Fyne Cakes in the cookbook). For those of you who read this blog and go to the Faire, ask us for samples of the Banbury Tarts and Scottish Eggs, as well, as these will be staples at the Cracked Cauldron when we open.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Thursday, March 17, 2005
When you take pictures using a Sony Mavica that stores the pics to a floppy disk - label the disk as soon as you remove it from the camera.
Organization, labels, logical filing - these are our friends.
The picture of the cornbread will be posted as soon as I find which disk it's on.
Or I'll bake more cornbread and take a picture of that instead.
Also, MedFaire is 2 weeks away.
We have 11 unlabeled disks, only some of which contain photos. Which one contains the photo I want to upload here?
Cornbread photo will be uploaded as soon as it is found.
Thank you for your patience.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Unpredictable Oklahoma weather brought us sunny and near 70 on Monday, and snow on Tuesday
The ground was warm enough that falling snow melted before it ever reached the ground, so what we saw was rain.
Still, those who worked in the tall office towers on the top floors saw snow falling.
It wasn't cold enough to want to hunker down with a big bowl of red, but cornbread and beans sounded really good.
We make a variety of cornbreads - Southern style, Northern style, Mexicali, sourdoughed, and yeasted. Some are sweet and some are savory. The only binding between them all is ground corn meal.
Last night, we opted for a Mexicali version - creamed corn, extra sharp cheddar, melting Mozzarella, ground corn meal, eggs, milk, butter, and freshly chopped chilies. This cornbread was topped with more cheese, chopped chilies, and diced tomatoes. When it came steaming from the oven, we split it open, slathered it with spicy butter and topped it with pinto beans and more cheese.
I'll upload a picture as soon as I get to the computer with the photo software on it.
We bake our cornbreads in enameled cast iron, and that means having to heat the iron pans before we fill it with the cornbread batter. A baking stone stays in the oven to help even the temperature in it. On the rack above it, we place the cornbread pan, and let it heat at 400º for 20 minutes with butter in it. When we take it out of the oven, we give it a swirl to let the butter coat it well and then pour in the batter. It sizzles and forms a crust almost immediately.
The first time I ever made this cornbread, we lived next door to a Mexican family waiting for citizenship. Mrs. Martinez had a huge brood of children, all living in their half of a one bedroom duplex. She cheerfully cooked for all the neighborhood children - piles of tortillas, mounds of refried beans - and this cornbread.
I loved this cornbread. In the mornings, I would stop by her place, and she'd tuck squares of it in my leather German luncbox, along with a gooshy chunk of white cheese. I'd eat it for lunch. On my way home at night, she'd wave me over and let me have any left-overs from earlier in the day, because Mrs. Martinez would never serve hours old cornbread to her family. She thought it was a gaucho thing, to eat cold cornbread.
I didn't care. I loved it.
One day, Mrs. Martinez took me into her kitchen and showed me how to make this cornbread myself, scraping thye corn off the cob and mashing it to cream it up, shredding the cheeses, peeling and chopping the chilies, preheating the iron cornbread pan, and mixing it all up to bake.
Some days, I'd rather have this cornbread than cake.
I owe a lot of my Texican cookery to Mrs. Martinez.
I ought not to be surprised by it, but there were many people who took the time to teach me to cook as I grew up. Men showed me their secret barbecue recipes, and women shared their special time-saving techniques in the kitchen.
Back then, practically everybody cooked most of their meals themselves. Eating out was for special occassions.
In some ways, I'm sort of sad to see that it isn't so anymore. Too many people eat out, or buy frozen meals to nuke at home.
I know the Cracked Cauldron will be a favorite place for many people to eat and get take out.
I wonder if Manager would like the idea of eventually offering cookery classes to neighborhood kids? Every kid needs to know how to cook one special dish.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Pi Day for this year didn't catch us by surprise. We baked a square pie in celebration, because every knows Pi R Square.
When we open the Cracked Cauldron, we plan to have little square pies for Pi Day with little pi symbol cut out on top, and even for Pi Approximation Day - which gets celebrated twice a year - July 22nd and April 26th. The first is because 22 divided by 7 approximates Pi, and the other because that's when the Earth's orbit equals Pi.
Yes, it's for all the college kids who will frequent the Cracked Cauldron, and all the geeks out there.
I'd show you pictures, but we ate them already.
We updated the Business Plan - included such things as the cookbook and the CafePress offerings, and revamped dates and such.
It may seem as if we aren't doing much on the financial front, but we are still pursuing several different avenues.
Manager is also working on beefing up the skills various bankers have pointed out as weak by mentoring temporarily with various businesses in town. From them, she gets to increase her inventory and accounting skills, her managerial skills, and she's learning how to handle training sessions and corporate meetings with corporate experience. These skills will not only make her a better bakery owner, they will produce confidence in her from potential investors.
Another project she has underway is a "single servings" cookbook: how to bake cakes, cookies, pies, and such for just one person without weeks of leftovers or the need to freeze extras. As a single person herself, she's been frustrated with the recipes in most cookbooks that "Serve 4" or 6 or 8 people, not to mention packaging that implies one is purchasing for groups of people.
The Cracked Cauldron will be selling individual sized portions of all our goods, which still appears to be the exception in many places, but sometimes, people just want to make things for themselves. After we're open, we can imagine they'll buy this cookbook because they move away and miss what we offer at the Cracked Cauldron. Until we open, though, the cookbook will be a sample of what we will offer.
So, things are far from quiet as we inch along into the future.
Now, as for MedFaire: we have copies of The Cauldron Crack'd, and we'll provide sample cookies to go along with the cookbook. The cookbook contains recipes for gingerbread and shortbread, and those are the ones we'll offer.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
A Billy Goat Cookie - filled with dried chopped dates, apples, raisins, papaya, pineapple, blueberries, cherries, pecans, almonds, oatmeal, yogurt, eggs, brown sugar, honey, and flour. This version has swirly chips on top.
A bell pepper with a baby bell pepper growing inside it. This was used in the tri-pepper stew below.
A tri-pepper stew, to be served over rice. It contains 3 colors of bell pepper, red and yellow onions, small cubes of chuck steak, parsnips, parsley, garlic, ground celery seed, popped black mustard seed, and black pepper.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Manager has been hired by a woman in Georgia to do a spot of personal cheffing - she'll be coming to Oklahoma for a visit, and wants Manager to bake and cook for her while she's here. I'm not sure how a woman in Georgia heard about us and wants us to cook for her, but there it is.
We've also got several potential investors looking over the business proposal and spreadsheets, and there's a possibility Manager will be meeting with them in the near future.
This Thursday, I'll be meeting with some local Oklahoma farmers and buying some of their products for us to sample and see if we'll be using them in the Cracked Cauldron when we open.
We haven't approached them yet as potential suppliers because we need to know when we'll be opening. That, of course, depends on when we'll scrounge up the funds to open.
This weekend, we'll be making some Billy Goat Cookies for one of our Beloved Guinea Pigs. I also want to play around with little bite-sized versions of the Baklava Cheesecake, and maybe an experimental recipe with Tri-Pliny.
The yeast beasties from Italy are growing nicely, but it may still be a week or two before they are ready to bake with. Maturity is important in sourdoughs, and these still seem a bit too new and shy. A good bath and a little extra coaxing should get them fired up, they seem to be quivering on that edge. We'll see how this next week goes with them. Tri-Pliny seems more determined than Quintina.
Baby steps, but we are getting there.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Some of the anecdotes we mentioned in earlier posts didn't make it into the cookbook. The Monkey Food Fight and the Burping Contest were left out because they were not rated for a general audience, and we couldn't figure out how to retell them without losing the zest of the stories.
Others, which would have been suitable, were left out because we couldn't reach the people involved for their permission, nor could we obscure them because it was their very identity that made the stories worth retelling.
The story of the Kissing Dragon, even though it involved a child, was far enough in the past that the child is now adult and, while embarrassed by the story, he agreed to the retelling. Had he not agreed, we couldn't have retold it because the fact that he was the Kissing Dragon is what made the story. It wouldn't have been near as cute if we'd renamed him the Hand Lizard.
So, a lot of good stories got left out.
If you catch us at the Faire, ask us about some of these stories. We can tell the stories even if we can't print them.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
I can't put the book about CC's first year on Lulu.com because my computer lacks the ability to handle Excel for the spreadsheets and I lack Adobe for formatting it as a pdf. Right now, if I can't do it in Word, it just doesn't get done.
I've been sending queries to traditional publishers, but it's really too soon to hear back.
Traditional publishers move slow, which is why this cookbook was published at Lulu.com - speed! From uploading to receiving the print copies is just 2-3 weeks (longer for me since I ordered so many copies for the Faire, so I paid extra for faster shipping).
I do want to apologize because I left out an entire chapter! That's what I get for rushing things. Like bread, a good book needs time to develope.
Since an ISBN has already been asigned to it (which means it will be available via Books in Print in 2 weeks), altering the book to add it would be difficult, at best. So, what we decided in the dark hours of this morning - when realization hit that we'd forgotten that chapter - was if the book proved popular enough to need edxpansion and updating, we'd add it then. This was the short chapter on beverages.
It was a very short chapter, just three drinks: a mulled wine/cider, a soft mead, and Pyrate's Brew.
The mulled wine recipe was taken from Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century by Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler, called Potus Ypocras. I won't post the original recipe here, but the redacted one is simple enough:
a bottle of wine or apple cider
1 cup honey
6 inches of broken cinnamon sticks
1/2 ounce of fresh ginger
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon black pepper, bruised
1 tablespoon fresh galingale (check the Asian markets for this)
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons bruised caraway seeds
Warm the honey and skim any scum that rises. When no more scum rises up, pour in the wine, and tie the spices intoa triple layer bag of cheesecloth. Let the spices simmer in the honeyed wine (or cider) for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool with the spice bag still in it. Cover and let it sit for 24 hours in a cool place (the refrigerator is good). After 24 hours, remove the spices and filter the wine. Rebottle the wine and set it in the back of the refrigerator for at least a month. When you're ready to serve it, warm it up and add a little more honey if you like it really sweet, like me.
Soft mead came from so many sources, I'm hard put to select just one. It is an insanely simple recipe. You'll laugh when you read it. That's OK, it's a nice drink.
1 cup honey
2 cups sweet water
the juice of 1 lemon
Warm the honey and skim the scum that rises. When no more scum rises, add the juice of the lemon, remove it from the heat, and stir in the water. Serve it warm or chilled. It's very sweet. Just the way I like it.
Pyrate's Brew is our own concoction, a lovely spice blend one can add to hot beverages such as coffee, cocoa, cider, wine, Dr. Pepper, and most juices (you should try it with grapefruit juice!). We like to buy those "make your own" teabags, and fill them with this blend to steep in the beverage of our choice. The addition of rum or rum flavoring makes it super Pyratey good.
1 teaspoon each ground clove, cinnamon, nutmeg
1 fresh vanilla pod, chopped into 12 pieces
2 teaspoons dried orange zest (not peel, no white pith at all!)
1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
Mix all of this together, then divide between 12 tea bags. Seal the bags. When you want to make a Pyrate's Brew as we do (coffee), then take 1 tea bag per cup of coffee you'll make, steep them in the hot water you'll use to brew the coffee, then brew the coffee. Add 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk, 1 teaspoon raw turbinado sugar, and a few drops of rum flavoring. If you prefer real rum, use as much as you like, but really, more than a shotglass full in a cup of coffee overwhelms the coffee flavor, and you might as well dispense with the coffe and just drink the rum straight from the bottle.
We know a few Pirates from various Faires who like to skip all the coffee nonsense, and steep the spices straight in the bottles of rum. When they drink this, they start slurring their Yo Ho Hos,and become great fun at the late night Faire parties.
Not all Faires end at Gate Closing, and if you work at a Faire, you might be lucky enough to be invited to the Pirate Party. Of course, if you're really popular, you'll have to decide which party you want to attend: The SCA's, the Pirate's, The Royal Party, the merchant's, the musician's. Me, I'm a Faire
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Is now available at Lulu.com. Just click on the button to the right. There are 37 recipes, 11 photos, and a few funny stories.
It even has an ISBN: 1-4116-2631-1.
Now, I can return to more intersting posts.
And do all the other stuff to prepare for MedFaire.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Last year, at the Friends of the Library Booksale, we scored some really helpful books for the Cracked Cauldron, ones which were out of print and otherwise hard to get.
We got a few nice books for the bakery, but nothing like last year.
The man who gave me a daughter of his starter last year wasn't there while we were, so we missed one another, and I didn't have a chance to tell him how well his daughter yeast beastie is doing.
I'm keeping this post short because I'm grey-scaling and embedding photos into the manuscript for The Cauldron Crack'd. It requires a lot more time and attention than I thought it would so the font doesn't mess itself up.
I am so not a computer person.
Today is sunny and seventies, and my computer cords don't stretch outside.
Friday, March 04, 2005
This weekend is going to be lovely warm weather, perfect for grilling and other outdoor activities.
Too bad I'll be locked to the computer, correcting typos and getting the formatting right for The Cauldron Crack'd.
We joined a food coop locally to get to know local producers better. And to be able to buy their produce in smaller quantities than we'll need for the Cracked Cauldron. I've ordered buffalo, lamb, and venison from some of the local farmers, and should be getting them in 2 weeks.
I was surprised to find that buffalo is less expensive than beef, especially in the roasts.
In the coming weeks, I'll be posting about Tri-Pliny and Quintina as well as experiments with these farmed meat animals.
And we may have some interesting news soon about opening.
We're not dancing in the streets and shouting from the rooftops yet, merely quivering anxiously.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
And during this blog-hiatus, we've written The Cauldron Crack'd, a cookbook focusing on Renaissance Faire Foods, RenFaire anecdotes, and a few historical recipes, too.
It's not by any means a scholarly piece, just ignore the pendantic prose and the excerpts from medieval texts. That's to appease the Authenticity Mavens who will be at the OU Medieval Faire, hovering over our shoulders and critiquing what we did.
The rest of the book is fun.
We're proofing it now for my inevitable typos (y'all are too kind and have overlooked them on this blog, but they shouldn't be in the book), and formatting it for Lulu.com.
That should all be done by this weekend.
On further news, I've been re-activating the Italian sourdough starters, Tri-Pliny and Quintina. They are more delicate than I'd hoped, so it may take another week or two before they are sturdy enough to bake with. Tri-Pliny seems very masculine in aspect - slow off the start, determined, and single focused. He ignores most of the variables (mostly temperature and humidity fluctuations), and if he reacts at all, it's a slow one that I can control better. I won't find he's blown through a feeding and collapsed of exhaustion the way Quintina does. I won't know for sure if Tri-Pliny is male until I bake with him.
Quintina, however, is indisputably female. I can tell even before baking with her. She's coy and needs lots of coaxing, but has an underlying sturdiness I haven't found in Tri-Pliny yet. She's variable and quick to react to circumstances, too. Be slow feeding her, and she collapses from starvation. A little food, though, and she's back to full vigor. She's such a drama queen!
I can't wait to taste Tri-Pliny and Quintina.
Yeast beasties are the only pet that thrives the more you eat of it. I bet a vat of sourdough was the original never-empty cauldron of fairytales.