Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bread Fan 

There's this little 4 year old girl I know who's had to be placed on a really restrictive diet. Restrictive, that is, if you live in modern America where the easy thing to do is buy prepared foods, whether canned, frozen, boxed, or from a restaurant. She's not allowed anything containing preservatives (very hard to do, even if you make it from scratch because even the individual ingredients may have some preservatives in them, or be "vitamin enhanced"), artificial colors, or soy.

The first two are tough but possible.

The last one? Soy? That's virtually impossible to comply with unless you may every single thing yourself. Foods that 6 months ago were free of soy suddenly have soy, soy lecithin, soy protein, hydrolyzed protein, protein isolate or concentrate, textured vegetable protein, protein extender, vegetable gum, vegetable broth, miso, edemame, or pea protein in it. The list grows practically daily of foods that now contain soy. Salad dressings, bread, granola bars, cereals, cookies, crackers, ice cream, baby foods, hamburger patties, margarines, candy, canned tuna, canned soups, artificial cheeses, cream chocolates, gravy powders or prepared gravies, hot dogs, sausages, canned Vienna sausages, caned chili, almost all frozen pies (dinner or dessert), seasoned salt, shortenings, canned soups and stews, bouillion cubes, frozen TV dinners, cooking oils, cakes and snack cakes, canned or boxed frostings, canned meat in sauces, and even some pastas!

Manager, having a soy allergy that is getting worse with constant exposure to it, is determined to have an array of soy-free products (and cannot herself make anything containing soy).

For this particular little girl, her parents don't know how to bake bread, or make salad dressings or ice cream or anything that is normally purchased already prepared, so she's been limited in what she can eat - basically raw or cooked fruits and vegetables. I connected them with the food coop where they can purchase free-range meats that haven't got food coloring to make it redder or brighter looking so she can at least have meat again. And I bake all her cookies and cakes and breads.

Something many people don't even think about is all the other products that contain soy - lotions, soaps, printer's ink, pet foods, fabrics, blankets, adhesives, lubricants, and paper. Manager's allergy is sensitive enough that if she's near a printer using soy ink, she'll have trouble breathing. Soaps and lotions also cause her problems.

I understand soy is a cheap, renewable resource, but so is canola and hemp and a variety of other oils. Soy is in the top 5 allergens, up there with peanuts, milk, and wheat. So why is practically every commercially produced granola bar in the supermarket suddenly made with soy? Why is every commercially produced salad dressing and sauce made with soy? Breakfast cereals, made from whole grains, are suddenly being "fortified" with soy. They were nutritious enough before soy was added.

I hope this trend reverses soon, because there's a huge group of people who are suddenly finding themselves unable to eat a lot of different things.

I wish we had the funding to open the Cracked Cauldron because this enormous market just opened up for us - all the people who can no longer buy Oreos or Nutter Butters or Quaker Granola Bars and such would buy our yummy sandwich cookies and granola bars not only because they taste really good, but because they are soy-free.

In the meantime, I'm baking snack cakes and breads and cookies for this one little girl, and wish I could do it for more.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Expo Tradeshow 

I dropped in on the Expo Tradeshow - late.

As far as I could tell in hte brief time I had there, there was nothing relevant to opening the Cracked Cauldron.

Other than that, it was a typical trade show - booths, people, brochures, lots of noise and motion.

A local grocery store is setting itself up to "outsource" departments, and has recently added a butcher shop (yay! Fresh meat not packaged in those nasty nitrogen injected foam and plastic boxes!) and an extensive import section. They once had an in-store bakery, and they still have all the equipment behind a temporary wall they built. Much of their fresh baked goods are delivered from a regional distributor.

Manager and I are discussing if it would be viable to begin as an in-store bakery. We hadn't considered that before. And it's possible their terms will not be ones we can work with. That all depends, I suppose, on what they tell us in the next few days.

In the meantime, we're busy with graduations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Channel Surfing 

Channel surfing on the radio works.

I found out the Expo is being held at the Francis Tuttle Vo-Tech Center from 1-7 p.m. on Thursday, May 12th.

It's not specifically for start-ups, but they say they'll have information for start-ups there.

Another networking opportunity is always worth it.

We have people who want to regularly buy our "Peter Max" Bread, the Bacon Bread, the daily cakes and cookies and the pies we make. All we need is the little bit of financing to get a place and the basic equipment.

Monday, May 09, 2005


There's an Expo for future businesses, start-ups, new businesses on Thursday, May 12.

I just heard about it on the radio early this morning, the tag end of it. I thought I heard them say it was at the Myriad Convention Center (which has been renamed less poetically to the Cox Business Services Convention Center), but the event isn't listed on their website.

If I knew more about the Expo (like maybe it's name, or the radio station it aired on - I heard it from someone else's car at a traffic stop), I could find out where it really is, and make arrangements to attend.

Although, if it really is on Thursday, May 12, I have prior commitments that day, and may not be able to make it.

On a happier note, we're providing treats for several graduation parties and I finally mastered the art of making a beautiful Il Gianforniao. One recipe breaks down into 4 full sized loaves. If there's time next weekend, I'll see about making individual-sized rolls. I think these would be kick-ass hamburger buns!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

More on Cinco de Mayo 

I know it's not a big Mexican holiday. That date is actually September 19th.

Still, any reason for a party.

Cinco de Mayo gives us an excuse to eat Tex-Mex and Mex-style food, to down margaritas, and listen to mariachi music, with pinatas and castanets and general silliness while wearing sombreros and ponchos and speaking in execrable Mexican accents making Speedy Gonzalez jokes. It has more to do with the archetypal Mexican than anything real - like St. Patrick's Day having nothing to do with St. Patrick or real Irish, and lots to do with green, shamrocks, leprechauns, kisses, and beer. Parades and dressing up and letting go are the real reasons behind pre-empted holidays like Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day.

They're fun and colorful and loud.

We're more than willing to bake cookies, cakes, and other yummy things to make the celebration even more festive.

The Tres Leches cake was successful with the lime, not so good with tequila, except as an accompaniment. And the fruity tamales are very good. Strawberries are good for Cinco de Mayo because that's when the berries are widely available and cheap, but the fruity tamales also do well with raspberries, blackberries, raisins, peaches, plums, and apples. I'm not too wild about pears because of the graininess of most pears, but I suppose someone will like them that way.

Passionfruits aren't ripe yet, but I'll have to give that a try when they are.

In the meantime, a new bakery opened about fifty miles south of us, so we'll check them out this weekend.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Cinco de Mayo 

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, and we will be baking a Tres Leches cake modified with lime, and maybe tequila, with fat spicy Mexican cookies, a tortilla soup, yummy empanadas, and strawberry tamales.

You've never had Strawberry Tamales before?

They're easy. Just add sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, strawberry juice and marmalade to the masa mix, then roll the masa around fresh sliced strawberries simmered in strawberry juice and tequila and steam like any other tamale.

They are very yummy.

With strawberries down to 88¢ a pound, I will make many of them nad freeze the extras - they freeze very well.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


The bane of all new businesses - the Numbers Game.

What do I mean?

Spread sheets, cash flow analysis, cost analysis, operating expenses - most of which have to be guessed at or estimated because we aren't open yet.

And then, getting our estimates to balance across the board.

Sure, we know what some expenses are, they're pretty fixed. Other expenses are blindsiders - like the insurance liability rates that were just legislated to a higher dollar amount, taking effect in July.

That one piece of legislation increases our insurance rates by 1/3, setting the bar that much higher towards opening. There are other bits of legislation coming up that can effect our bottom line adversely, as well, some of it involves how we'll be able to accept deliveries from some of our local suppliers. While that may not increase the cost of the supplies themselves, it will effect how we have to modify the receiving area. That means it's probably a one-time opening expenditure.

The longer it takes to get the Cracked Cauldron open, the more expensive it becomes. The cost isn't in the supplies or the equipment, or even the employees and training, but in compliance with ever more rules and regulations that make opening a new business a costly venture. Established businesses are usually not covered in these new expenses, or have a grace period with which to prepare for compliance.

So that's what we've been doing this past week - finding out the new and potential stumbling blocks coming our way so we can prepare work-arounds and alter our numbers.

It's a game we appear to be losing.

Fortunately, appearances can sometimes be deceptive.

On a happier note, Cinco de Mayo approaches, and we've been working on making Mexican celebration breads and cookies, and experimenting with the definitive Mexican cake - Tres Leches.

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