Monday, March 28, 2011

Atlanta Underground Market Report

This Saturday was my first Atlanta Underground Market experience as a vendor. My husband was a great help in getting the car loaded and unloaded and the space all set up. I will add some pictures of my booth soon.

Overall, I had very good reactions to my pancake puffs and cake truffles, which made me feel good. Unfortunately, the number of people visiting the market was much lower than had been anticipated by all involved. The weather had to have been a major factor. I saw that I20 near Candler road even had to be shut down at one point (though I am not sure what time of day or night that way). People just prefer to stay home when it is cold and rainy.

As a result, I have a number of cake truffles remaining. I am working all my connections so far and hope to get some of them sold. If you are interested, please give me a call at 706-614-4751 or 770-279-2048 or email me at I usually sell my truffles for $15 a dozen, but discounts can be discussed for larger orders. And the dozen can be a mixture of the varieties, it doesn't have to be 12 of the same variety. We can arrange for a time and place to meet.

Here are the varieties available: Apples N Spice, Spiced Carrot Cake, Mocha Choco-latte, Chocolate Covered Oranges, Red Velvet, Drunken Raspberry, Amaretto Supreme, Cookies & Cream, and Peanut Butter Delights.

To view details on all the flavors, click on the 'Current Cake Truffle Selection' tab at the top of the page.

So give me a call or send me an email and I would love to share my cake truffles with you! Be sure to pass the information along to anyone you think may be interested.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Getting ready for the Market

I have been working very hard to get things ready for the market this weekend. It has been more difficult than I would like because of the extra (and odd) hours at work this week. Luckily I have been thinking and making lists so that things go as efficiently as possible. I am trying to anticipate as many different obstacles that may get in the way this weekend and how I can get around them. There are always unforeseen circumstances, but I am trying to be ready for as much as I can.

I am under way on the cake truffles. I am bringing some of all my nine flavors, which can be found on the tab at the top of the page, along with pictures. Hopefully I can get completely done and packaged up by tomorrow midday.

Then it is off to the races with the pancake puffs. I bought two more pans, so I can make up to 21 puffs at one time. That will decrease the production time dramatically. So long as I can keep up with all the puffs and not accidentally burn some while attending to the others. I think once I get the pan temperature just where I want it it will go smoothly. These are just as finicky as making pancakes on a flat griddle top..time and temperature are very important, but once those are at ideal conditions it all goes without issue.

I have settled on my pancake puff flavors, barring any big troubles with the execution. So here is your sneak preview of what I will be offering in a few short days:

  • Parmesan puffs: savory pancake puffs seasoned with basil, oregano, parsley, garlic and onion powder. These will be served with a red sauce for dipping.
  • Sweet and Spicy bacon poppers: Bacon that is sweetened with brown sugar, but spicy from cayenne pepper is chopped up and added to the puffs.
  • Buffalo chicken and waffles: a twist on the traditional Southern favorite, Chicken and Waffles. Inside a waffle batter will be chopped roasted chicken dripping in buffalo wing sauce. Served with an option of ranch dressing.
  • Red velvet pancake puffs: Yummy red velvet pancake bites served with a dollop of white chocolate cream cheese icing.
If any of those puffs do not live up to my expectations, then I can always make the chicken sausage filled puffs as in the past. I haven't tried out the waffle batter in my pans yet, but all the other types of batter seem to work well so I do not have any concerns as to whether it will fail. I will make as many as I possibly can, starting tomorrow evening. Hopefully I can make as many as I am planning on!!! All I can do is my best and hope that it goes over well with the patrons of the Atlanta Underground Market.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Atlanta Underground Market Update

I found out a few days ago, but haven't had a chance to update on here yet how the market trials went.

I brought three types of pancake puffs (Italian parmesan with red sauce, mozzarella and garlic chicken sausage and caramel filled brownie with caramel and homemade chocolate sauce) to the trial. I reheated them before leaving the house and brought the toaster just in case I would be able to crisp them up a bit when I got there. I didn't end up warming them up again and they were a bit softer than I would have liked because they steamed a little in the containers after being warmed at home. I gave the panel one of each of the flavors since I knew they would be eating lots throughout the afternoon. They loved the idea, no one had heard of ebelskivers before and liked that I could make both sweet and savory offerings based on the same concept.

I also brought in 2 dozen of various cake truffles. I only had one raspberry left and no apples n spice or cookies and cream left, but I brought some of all the rest of the varieties. They quickly tried them and loved them. I was asked if I would be willing to bring in both concepts and I said yes. It would be a whole lot more work to bring both, but I am more than willing to put in the extra effort.

In the end, I was chosen to be one of the vendors and I am ecstatic!!!!! And a bit overwhelmed. They want me to focus more on the pancake puffs and less on the cake truffles because of the novelty of the puffs, but I can bring cake truffles with me to sell. I am working on getting a bunch of cakes made now since there is a freezer step before dipping the truffles in chocolate. So that is helping me out a lot because I can focus on the truffles now and work on the puffs in the few days before the market.

Life is going to get interesting over the next week. There is so much to get done! I wasn't panicking at all until yesterday afternoon when my boss told me she wants me to run a large experiment next week. One that involves me working from 6:45am to 4:15pm, then I can go home for a little bit but then have to leave again around 6:40pm only to get home for good at 7:45pm. Do that Monday through Thursday next week. And get in 7am Friday morning and finish up for about 3-4 hours. So that will dramatically reduce the time that I have to work on everything. Oh and to top it off, my husband will be at a conference next week from Monday night through Thursday afternoon.

So I won't be sleeping very much next week. But I am determined to get lots done and have a lot of cake truffles and puffs to sell. This is too big of an opportunity for me to get my business up and running for me to let a little thing like sleep get in the way.

Look out...Here I come!!!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Getting Ready for Market Trials

I have talked about the Atlanta Underground market in the past. The first market was held at the end of February and was a great success. This time around, Michaela is holding an audition to determine the best vendors for the market at the end of March. And that trial is tomorrow. I have been thinking about it since the announcement was made just after the last market. And getting excited about it!

Of course I will be bringing a variety of cake truffles. Those would be my first preference to sell, but to be honest, I would love to sell just about anything at the market. It would be an exhilarating experience and the opportunity to serve a large crowd my treats would be out of this world. I have a few that I kept from selling truffles yesterday and I just need to make a few more to give them a good variety at the trial tomorrow.

My second concept revolves around the pancake puffs, which are working wonderfully now. They would be a lot more work at the time of the market since I would need to reheat everything and serve it all, rather than prepackaging my cake truffles, but not anything that I couldn't handle. I have two varieties that I made yesterday. Each batch made a lot more than I would need for the trial, so the left overs came with me to work today for a reception we are having this afternoon to celebrate my friend's PhD defense. It will be a great way to see how well I can heat up a lot at a time and the best way to serve them. Hopefully I can get some good feedback today since there is still time to change anything that needs to be changed before tomorrow.

I could also bring my s'mores concept (more on that in the next post), but I haven't decided. I brought them for the reception this afternoon as well. It will all depend on the feedback I get today. The original concept was aimed for applying to the Lilburn farmers market, where there would be more families. The Atlanta underground market seems to attract more of a college-aged demographic. But who knows, maybe the people here will rave over the idea and my thought that it wouldn't attract as many people my age would be wrong. We shall wait and see this afternoon.

I did have a fourth concept in mind, but I haven't had a chance to test it out yet. That will depend on what time I get up in the morning tomorrow. Either I will get up super early from excitement or I will crash out and sleep later than usual because of how hectic this week has been.

I'll be sure to update on how the reception and the vendor trials go as soon as I can.

Cake Truffle Day!!!!

I was asked to bring by a variety of truffles to a local business so I spent a whole lot of time makes as many truffles as I could find the time for. I made about 120 truffles and my husband said that he didn't think it would be enough to sell at that business as well as bring some to his office, so I spent Wednesday night making lots more... and I got carried away, which is easy to do when I have 9 varieties of truffles. To the tune of about 300 cake truffles. I didn't know where to put them all! I used up all the hard containers I had and had to find two cardboard ones. And each was stuffed to the brim!!!

It was a lot of work, but I got them all done and packed up. I decided to take a day off from work to go to the two businesses and because I had other baking I needed to do yesterday (more on that soon...). I got to the first place without any trouble with traffic and got my nice new shiny folding shopping cart (which, I love, by the way) all loaded up and got into the lobby. I tried calling my contact, but there was no answer at her desk. It turns out that the regional VP came in that morning and took the entire office away from the building. Much to the dismay of those looking forward to the truffles (from what I have been told).

So I headed over to my husband's office with my entire stock. There was a great response there and I ended up staying for a few hours and selling almost half of everything I brought. I boxed up a bunch of the remaining truffles to save for the first business, at their request and they should get the truffles today. I started to leave when I got stopped in the hallway a few more times. I felt bad sitting on the floor in the hallway handing out cake truffles, but I wanted to make sure that everyone that wanted truffles had a chance to get some.

I had several people ask for my card (yippeeee!!!) and ask about selling them a bunch for parties. Of course I would love to do parties and even small orders. I hope this will get some word of mouth going and more people will be interested in my cake truffles. The comments I got were all very positive and everyone seemed to love all the flavors. I can't tell you how excited I was to see the smiles on everyone's faces and how excited they got. I love making people smile!

There was a large preference for some flavors over the rest. Red velvet seems to be a monster seller and I will keep that in mind for any sort of market situation or when I return to sell at businesses. Carrot cake was another big seller. I didn't grow up eating much carrot cake, so it wasn't on the forefront of my mind as being a big draw. In fact, I didn't have any carrot cake in my original 130 truffles I made and my husband was quick to note that. Another thing I need to keep in mind while expanding my flavors is to include more selections without nuts. I have a few flavor combinations floating through my mind at the moment that I haven't had a chance to test out yet, but those without nuts just got bumped to the top of the list.

So even though my day did not go quite as planned, it turned out to be quite a success! Hopefully I will get asked to come back to these places and maybe they will talk to other people that might be interested in me stopping by and things will grow from there.

I am one step (and an important one) closer to making my dream of baking for a full-time living a reality. Here's to the next one!!!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

First Ever Ethiopian Food Experience

And I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved it!!!! I can't begin to say how many times over how yummy it all was. There wasn't one thing I tried that I didn't adore.

A friend of mine and I went to Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Food in Decatur for lunch today. We both like trying different types of food and this was a great place to experience Ethiopian food for the first time. She had been there once before, but it has been a few years. I have had food from Kenya, but the main influence was Indian inspired, so this was completely different.

We ordered sambussas to start, which remind me of samosas. The menu states they are pastry shells filled with lentils, onions and green peppers. They came out hot and steamy and were a great start.

We needed some help with the menu since neither of us had any idea what to order. She wanted something beef, so the server suggested two different beef entrees. The first was called derek tibs 'spiced cubes of selected lean beef cooked well done and sauteed with garlic, fresh tomato, green pepper and onion.' The other was awaze tibs 'spiced cubes of selected lean beef sauteed with garlic, green pepper, onion and awaze.' This one had a red sauce that was a little spicier than the derek tibs.

The meal came out on a large platter lined with injera, a spongy bread. The server added the two types of beef to the platter, which also had a small salad with lettuce, tomatoes and a vinaigrette-type dressing. There was also a side of red sauce, just like the one for the awaze tibs. There were also small rolls of injera on the side to use to pick up the meat.

Both of us were super excited for lunch and it was completely wonderful! There were lots of 'yum's to go around. I think this place quickly became one of my favorites and I can't wait to go back and try some of the other options. Eating with the injera was a bit different, but I barely even noticed because I was too busy stuffing my face! I will definitely need to return in the near future and I can't wait!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pancake Puffs Redo

With a new pancake puff pan, I wanted to retry making my puffs. And I would like to say they were much better this time around. I bought a nonstick pan to replace my cheap cast iron one and it made all the difference in the world.

I started off with a simple buttermilk pancake base. One set was done without any additions. After cooking, I injected some strawberry filling into half of them. The next set, I put some batter in the well, then some of the leftover apple mixture I used for my apple pies, then a little more batter to top off the wells.

For the third trial, I put a little batter in the bottom, then some marshmallows and mini chocolate chips to make s'mores puffs.

For the last of the batch, I added some basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder and parmesan cheese.

All in all, the trials could not have gone better! The puffs cooked through easily and it didn't take anywhere near as long as the last time. And both sides of the puffs were a nice golden brown, not golden on one side and pale on the other.

I let the puffs cool then placed them in the fridge to test out reheating. If I were to make these at some sort of a market, I would need to have a lot ready to go. I reheated the puffs in the toaster and it worked out perfectly. I had thought I would use my electric skillet to warm them through, but the toaster actually was just right.

My husband liked the Italian spiced puffs (he hasn't tried the others yet), but thought they needed a little something. He said it was like eating pizza dough and was thinking it would be good to serve with red sauce. He loves his red sauce and even offered to make some for me if I wanted him to. It would have a great look to the dish to have some red sauce on the bottom with the puffs on top.

I am very happy with all the trials I ran today and I have a few other concepts in mind. I think I will be proud to bring them to the market trials this weekend, I just need to think about how to finish the puffs (if need serving with sauce or a chocolate sauce or powdered sugar...whatever is appropriate). I just need to decide exactly which ones I want to bring.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pie Maker Trials

Let me start off by saying I am a complete science nerd. I finally got my Breville Pie Maker last week (it was supposed to be here for Christmas but had been back ordered). My first thought is to set up an experiment. Yes, my first thought was to think of as many different variations for one type of pie possible and see what works best for this machine.

According to the users manual and reviews online, premade pie crust or puff pastry is best for the bottom crust and only puff pastry is recommended for the top crusts. Since I actually had some puff pastry and some pie crusts left over in the freezer from the Kraft contests, I figured that was the best place to start. I can move on to testing out my own pie dough in the future; I just needed a place to start.

The manual suggests precooking the fillings and cooling them to room temperature. I had come Granny Smith apples on hand, so I made some sauteed apples and cooled them down. Apple pie is a great place to start, it would make the taste testing quite enjoyable.

In the end, I tried out 12 different scenarios with my new pie maker, varying the top crust, bottom crust, no top crust, no filling and different manipulations of the top crust. Yes, this all went into a spreadsheet with cook times and comments.

Here are some of the things I found out:
1. Using pie crust for the top results in a very pale crust. It is cooked through, but really doesn't look all that pretty. So I tried a few tricks to darken the crust. First I added some melted butter, but that did not help significantly. I racked my brain for something else that would help with browning. Sugar, of course!!! So on another pie, I brushed the top with melted butter than sprinkled white sugar on top. Perfectly golden brown success!!!!

2. Puff pastry shrinks very quickly the second it touches the hot pie maker. That is why some of the puff pastry pies have gaps in them, I didn't move quickly enough. But the taste and texture are really good.

3. Pie dough as a bottom crust without any filling puffs up a lot, which is to be expected. I just had one space left in the pie maker while testing out other options.

4. Pie dough without filling and weighted with pie weights seems to work alright. It is another thing that would take some practice to get it done quickly enough so that the dough doesn't shrink before the lid can be closed.

5. Puff pastry on the bottom without filling and with pie weights did not work so well. Perhaps I need more weights. The pastry shrinks so quickly that I am not sure I could get that one down quick enough. But that won't stop me from trying.

6. The best combinations, flavor-wise and texture-wise were a) puff pastry on top and bottom; b) puff pastry on the bottom alone; c) pie dough on the bottom, puff pastry on the top (as recommended in the instructions); d) pie dough on the bottom and on the top with melted butter and white sugar.

So the next two things are to try homemade pie dough and other types of pie. I am not quite to the point where I want to make my own puff pastry. I am sure I could, but there are so many other things that I want to try and I know that is a difficult technique to master. It will happen some day, just not quite yet.

Until then, I shall continue to nibble at my pies until they are all gone...yummy, yummy, yummy!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Share Our Strength's Great American Baking Contest

I am so very proud to be a finalist in this contest! I made two batches of apple n spice cake truffles, some of tasting and some for donating for the silent auction. It ended up being 10 dozen truffles! It took a lot of time, but I got them all done, boxed up and submitted today. It is officially out of my hands now. All I can do is wait until 8PM-ish tonight when they announce the winners. It doesn't mean I am not going to stress over it every second until then!! I am excited for pastry chefs and other food lovers in Atlanta to taste my truffles. Hopefully they will like them! Even if I don't win anything sharing my truffles with people will be a great experience. And according to the rules, they will be mailing out the comment cards after tonight. I am anxious to see what sort of comments I get from the judges and from the others at the benefit reception tonight.

Wish me luck!!!!