Need to diet? Pop into your friendly neighborhood bakery today!

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Mornin’ all.

I opened my email this morning and found an ad from Aldi with the subject line, “Save for Celiac Awareness Month.”

Celiac. Awareness. Month.

Now, I’m not saying celiac disease shouldn’t be researched, and certainly the folks who suffer should have hope for a cure. But that’s not what this is about, is it? Aldi is not, in any way, being altruistic. Aldi isn’t donating for a cure. They aren’t trying to legitimately raise awareness. They are a grocery store with an abundance of gluten free products they need to unload. This isn’t about helping folks with legit gluten issues. It’s about selling gluten free products to the 99% of the population who does not have celiac disease.

I hate this kind of bullshit. Corporate “let’s pretend we care so you’ll keep forking over the cash” mentality.

There’s a new law on the books with which we need to comply at the bakery. In an effort to pretend we care, we now need to display the calorie count for all single serve items. Instead of posting an ugly, tacky menu, our company has chosen to print new display tags to put next to each item.

Now, I’m not saying it’s bad to inform your customers. I just don’t think my customers want to know.

Real talk. No one’s buying things from the bakery because they’re on a health kick. No one sees a cupcake and thinks it’s an acceptable stand in for a stick of celery in their diet plan. People know the shit I sell is unhealthy. They know. And when they are looking for a treat, they do not care.

I’m not opposed to having the information available if people ask. I just don’t see why the government has made it our job to prominently shame people who want a confectionery pick me up.

The one plus is the new fun game I can play now. “Guess How Bad It Really Is.” I don’t have a game show theme song for it yet, but it really has provided me a bit of fun to ask fellow employees, “Wanna guess how many calories this puppy has?”

We sell a type of fancy chocolate cupcake that has raspberry filling and chocolate everything else. It’s very pretty, a real eye catcher, and even though I’ve never had one, raspberries and chocolate?? How could it NOT be utterly delicious?

980.

980 calories for ONE cupcake.

In fairness, it would be difficult to get a whole cupcake down in one sitting. They’re not your average cupcake. They’re huge. Still, I’ve had sad days where I could, in theory, polish the whole thing off if I were so inclined.

We can also play the game in reverse. I tell the calorie count and give three options and folks need to try and guess which one fits. Let’s do one, shall we?

480 calories, and your choices are: single serve cheesecake with raspberries, small rosette cupcake with buttercream, or large stuffed cannoli.

Come on. Timer’s almost up.

If you said, “Cannoli,” no way, sucker! That puppy’s about two hundred calories more! It’s the raspberry cheesecake.

Isn’t this fun?

Guess what’s the worst thing we sell? I’ll give you the total: 1920. One THOUSAND, nine hundred twenty calories for ONE single serve item. That’s an entire day’s worth of calories in one treat.

So what do you think it could possibly be?

Keep in mind, we are a full service bakery. We sell everything from rolls to chocolate dipped strawberries. *tick**tock**tick**tock*

Time’s up! The worst item we sell is…

…you know what? I’m not going to tell you. A guessing game is only fun if you actually guess.

Aside from the new labels of shame, we also offer pamphlets about healthy eating. This one really gets me. I understand offering the nutrition facts about the food we sell. I think they are being very heavy handed and Big Brother-y in the way they’re going about it, but I get it. I do. I think the information about the food we put in our bodies should be available if we care to read it.

The pamphlets, though…Come on. I’m seriously expected to hand someone a cake with one hand and a pamphlet on what they SHOULD be eating with the other? Are you kidding me with this pandering bullshit? Who are you trying to fool? I do not give a rat’s ass about the diets of my customers. Not a whit. If they want to eat a 1920 calorie *redacted for purposes of a game show*, why should I be the one to stop them?

News flash: I’m not their mother. And I shouldn’t be expected to act like one. I make cakes. I make them for people to buy. I’m certainly not going to turn around and say, “Oh, you fell for my trap, you fool! Let me take a minute to educate you on how much of a stupid fucking lard ass you really are…”

I have a couple customers who will ask, “What’s the healthiest thing you sell here?” I always point to the produce section right behind them and say, “We’ve got some great apples and celery on sale this week.” When people ask for the “diabetic friendly” or “healthier” type of icing instead of buttercream (it’s a non-dairy whipped topping), I always point out that NO icing is diabetic friendly and that it is in no way healthier than buttercream.

So I do care if they’re coming at me with misinformation. But, in the end, if they get the unhealthy shit, *shrug*. It’s not my body. I honestly don’t care if they get five *1920 calorie items* and down them in a sad afternoon binge watching The Office for the fiftieth time. I don’t give a rat’s ass. Eat what you want. You’re an adult!

Look, I get that people should be able to be aware of the bad shit they’re putting in their bodies. I guess I just have a problem with a company who SELLS THOSE VERY ITEMS pretending to care. The ONLY reason we’re posting the facts is because the state says we have to. We’re a fucking bakery. The foundation of everything we make is a combination of fat, sugar, and carbs. Of COURSE our shit is unhealthy, and it’s pretty damn hypocritical to be the ones making the unhealthy shit only to turn around and shame the customers who buy it.

…is what I would say if I didn’t care about losing my job. So, uh, you know, great job, Corporate Higher Ups who might be reading this. I love working for a company that cares so much about its customers.

“Nice save, Bethie.”

I thought so.

Thus concludes a quick Musing for Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Holy FUCK it’s MAY. Aw hell. Remember all that cleaning I had to do? I STILL HAVE TO DO IT. Off I go…I’ve got a mop bucket calling my name…

Any Les Mis fans out there?

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*a light shines on a lone baker, center stage* *soft music begins to play*

One day more.

Another pie, another past-er-y,

On this never ending road to feed my fam-i-ly.

These customers who spend their dimes

Will surely come another time

One day more…

Mornin’ all.

Today is my tenth day straight at work. Tomorrow, I get a day off. I’m feeling a tad bit punchy, if you couldn’t tell.

Though, to be honest, isn’t starting the day off with an epic musical routine always the goal?

A coworker got injured while one of our Janes-of-all-Trades started a two week vacation. We are already short handed as it is, so it’s very hard to absorb the blow of someone missing work from being hurt.

I’ll mix the cream up fresh today

How can I pipe if it has parted?

Tomorrow I’ll be worlds away,

And yet right now my shift’s not started…

You see, we knew someone was about to get hurt. We’ve gone way too long without injury.

There’s a curse on our bakery.

No, don’t laugh. It’s true! How else would you explain the fact that in the not quite year I’ve been there, we’ve had four major injuries I can think of, if you include pregnancy. Which, let’s face it, you should.

If I worked in a large bakery, that would be a pretty fair number. Humans tend to be clumsy and inept. I do not work in a large bakery, though. I work with 7 other people. That’s it. Four major health-related reasons for missing work is a LOT in that short time span.

One more day not at my home,

One more day not in my jammies.

What a nap I might have known,

But they say they need me there…

My working theory is that someone got pissed off about an order they placed. While we do a damn fine job, mistakes happen. Or, more often, people don’t understand what they’re actually asking for when they place the order and are then ultimately disappointed when they pick up donut holes that don’t match their croquembouche dreams.

Anyway, someone was unhappy enough with their order that they hopped on a plane to New Orleans, prowled around the old quarter until they found a tiny shop filled with dried chicken feet and alligator teeth, gave the secret password to get into the hidden back room to see an ancient priestess, and had her construct a voodoo doll for each of our employees.

Only thing that makes sense when you think about it.

One more day of icing cupcakes,

We will top them with rose buds,

We’ll be ready for those orders,

They will stuff themselves with food.

Boy am I looking forward to the day off. It’s not like I’m going to do anything fabulous with it. In fact, I am going to probably catch up on housework. Woot woot. The fun don’t stop on THIS party train.

It’s just having the time to DO the housework, ya know?

I’m not a full time employee. Hell, around here it seems like “full time” is just a bedtime story folks tell their kids to trick them into staying in school. A mythical carrot dangled in front of their naive noses, just to be pulled away by modern corporate America. Some weeks I only get about 25 hours. Not these past couple weeks. Those have been almost full time. Juuuust shy so that I don’t qualify for benefits.

So not quite full time. Doesn’t sound like a lot, does it?

But then there’s the other part of life that comes with having a passel of kids. It just feels like every day I fall further behind on my list.

I’m not complaining. I like the job, I like getting money. That passel sure eats a lot and last time I checked, grocery stores weren’t giving out chickens and spuds for free. I’m just saying that tomorrow will feel damn good.

Watch them oooh and ahhh,

Get them testing treats,

Never get to rest when sales are at their peak,

Here a little taste,

There a little try,

Get ’em with a sample and then watch them buy.

Teen Prime bought me an early birthday present. Mass Effect: Andromeda. I am DYING to play it, but I am a good mummy.

…actually, I’m not. At best, I’m so-so. But, I do have my moments, and one of them is waiting to play the game until Teen Prime can be here for the weekend to watch. He loves watching people play. It didn’t work out this week, so all I can do is cast longing glances at the gleaming new game disc and smell the potential trapped within the pristine plastic.

If he could have made it down, that’s what I’d be doing from punch out time today until clock in time Monday morning. A bit of sleep in between, and I’d come up for air once in awhile to make sure the passel had wrassled up some grub and weren’t bleeding. Instead, we clean. *sigh* Hey, at least we get to clean at home, right?

Gaming. That would have been an awesome way to spend …

Tomorrow I won’t be at the baker-ay. Tomorrow I’ll clean house all day…

Tomorrow we’ll discover

What our laundry piles have in store.

One more tart,

One more caaaaaake,

ONE

DAY

MORE

Thus concludes a…Musing? Is it, though? Is it REALLY? Or is it more like insane rambling?…for Saturday, March 25, 2017. I get it, Weird Al. Props.

I’ve locked the door and armed myself with a peeler. Let’s hope it’s enough.

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Mornin’ all.

The apples. Oh, the APPLES.

Now, I’m not first world probleming, here, so don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about them. I love all this free food! But my word, I’ve never in my life had to deal with so many at once. In fact, if you added up all the apples I’ve EVER eaten, 37 years of apple lovin’, I’m not sure that it would match how many I have on the ground, in pots and pans waiting to be processed, in the coolers, and buckets, and baskets right this very moment.

They seem to be multiplying, too. I swear there weren’t as many last night.

And the most unnerving thing is that I think…I think they’re moving.

I came down this morning to get coffee and right there in front of the coffee maker was a huge stock pot of apples. How did it get there? I didn’t put it there.

“Yeah, right, Bethie.”

Think about it. Would I let anything get in the way of me and my morning cup of joe?

“Hm. You make a good point…”

They were waiting there for me, folks, I know they were. I’m not quite sure why. Were they trying to send a message? Make my mind think back on the silent screams of the dozens I’d already peeled and cored?

“What are you going to do, Bethie?” their shiny-skinned gaze seemed to say. “What’s it going to be for us? Are you going to skin us alive or boil us whole?”

Apples have completely taken over. They’ve turned the tables. THEY are the ones trying to hunt ME.

They came from 30 feet above…

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the orchard…

An apple a day lets the boogeyman out to play…

Way up high in the apple tree, two little apples smiled at me…oh, how they smiled *evil cackle*…

…can you get high on apple butter fumes?

I compost the cores and peels. For the first few days of dealing with the apple onslaught, the woodland creatures seemed to appreciate the heap in the compost. I’d get up in the mornings to find the pile nibbled down to almost nothing by the raccoons and bunnies and skunks and woodchucks.

Even Nature has become sick of apples, though. I found a few Yelp reviews of my compost pile that are less than flattering.

“I used to find great eats here, but now it’s like the chef has just given up. 2 stars.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I like apples. But when did egg shells and carrot peelings become passe? Not so sure I can get on board with one-ingredient menu. Decor was nice, though. 3 stars.”

“Ugh, another fru fru chef who thinks they found the next big thing. News flash: you aren’t as cool or hip as you think you are. And your parking is a joke. 1 star.”

Ouch. I’m not going to lie. That last one stung.

I think today will be the last big push on apple processing, which will no doubt be a relief for my kids. They’ve GOT to be jonesin’ for an orange right about now. I’ll get the rest of the apple crop done and the last apple cake baked for awhile and then move on.

Before I go, I’m going to share a recipe with you. Yes, it involves mashed apple carcasses. However, since the odds are good that you aren’t being haunted by the torturous memories of skinning thousands of the little buggers, I think it’s a recipe you’ll actually really like. It doesn’t have many ingredients, and comes out great every time.

Very Easy Apple Cake

…oh, and did I mention how easy it is to make?

20 oz. unsweetened applesauce (homemade or canned, either works. And that’s 2-1/2 liquid cups.)

2 cups flour

1 cup white sugar (or, for a deeper flavor, 1/2 c white and 1/2 c brown sugars)

1 T corn starch

2 tsps baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3 T cocoa powder (optional, but gives a much better flavor if you use it)

1 tsp salt

1 T apple pie spices of your choosing (more on that below)

Optional: up to 1 cup add-ins of your choice (also more below)

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Grease and flour a bundt pan, tube pan, two loaf pans, or a 9×13 cake pan.

3. Mix together all dry ingredients with a spoon. No mixer needed for this recipe! For the spices, you could buy a can of “pumpkin pie spice”, or you could create your own blend with your favorite ground spices from this list: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves. I generally tend to do about 2 tsps cinnamon, then make up the rest with small amounts of nutmeg, allspice, and ginger, because that’s what I personally like. Customize it how you will. Just remember, cloves pack a real punch, and ground ginger powder tends to get bitter as it ages. I’d go easy on the clove, and if you haven’t used that ginger powder that’s been sitting in the back of your cupboard all year, I’d consider ditching it and picking up a new can.

4. Add the applesauce. Stir. At first, you’ll notice it takes a bit of effort to get it to come together, but give it a few good turns with the spoon and it’ll magically turn into thick cake batter.

5. Now is the time to put in any add-ins you want and give them a stir just until they are evenly mixed throughout the batter. What do I mean by add-ins? Well, this recipe is a fantastic base that can be easily altered through the addition of things like: raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, crumbled cookies, sprinkles… If it’s dry and you think it would taste good in a cake, give it a go. However, you don’t need to put anything extra in at all. I usually make this without anything added, and it comes out tasting like a dark spice cake. Yum.

6. Bake for an amount of time that’s determined by your pan size. Larger, flatter pans will take about 40 minutes or so. Pans that are smaller, and therefore have a thicker layer of batter will take longer, 60 minutes. It’s like a banana or zucchini bread in that respect. To tell if the cake is done, a toothpick isn’t the best method for something like this. Instead, look at the cake edges around the pan. They should be slightly domed and just starting to pull away from the walls of the pan. Let the cake cool for ten minutes, then tip it out onto a plate or platter and let it cool completely. You can ice it however you choose, or not at all. It’s a moist cake that is actually good without heavy icing.

If you’d like to honor the apple tradition, here’s a quick and easy little caramel-ish glaze:

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 T water

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.

2. Cook over medium heat until the sugar crystals have dissolved, stirring constantly. This will happen quicker than you think, about 2-3 minutes, and it’ll burn if you aren’t paying attention! You can also do this step in a microwave. Microwave for 30 seconds in a microwave safe bowl. Stir, and pop it back in for 30 more seconds, repeating until it’s ready. It takes about 2 minutes to get a smooth glaze with no crystals, or about the same time it takes on the stove. In this instance, the microwave won’t really speed the process up.

3. When it’s very hot, the glaze will be super runny. As it cools, it thickens. When in this process you want to glaze your cake is up to you. I often will pour half over the top of the cake immediately, to allow some of the glaze to be absorbed into the cake, then pour the other half when things have cooled and thickened a bit. However, if you’re doing a bundt or tube cake, the glaze will run down the middle and collect in the well before seeping into the bottom. I personally like a moist bottom.

“Bethie!”

CAKE. I like my CAKE to have a moist bottom. Get your mind out of the gutter, perv.

Anyway, how you glaze is your call. I’ve done all I can to inform you of your choices. Go forth and make me proud.

Now, I know that was a lot of writing for what I claimed was a wicked easy cake. It is, because I’m wordy and want to make sure that the first time you make this recipe, you know what you’re doing. But, break it down. Applesauce, flour, leavening, and spices. That’s it. All in one bowl, stirred by hand, dumped with little care and baked until it’s done. No pressure. No stress. Probably the easiest cake recipe I’ve ever come across. If it takes you more than three minutes to get this thrown together and into the oven, you’re doing it wrong.

And, did you notice what it does NOT have in it? No eggs, meaning no cholesterol for those who care about that. No oil or margarine or butter, so no added fat.

Hey, stop with the look of dubiousness! Just because it’s healthier than most cake recipes doesn’t mean it can’t get a stamp of approval. I’m a cake lover. I wouldn’t give you a healthy recipe unless it was also a legitimately TASTY recipe. Give it a try. You’ll be surprised by how good it really is.

I stand behind this cake 100%.

…or at least I will in a month or two when the judgmental, accusatory stares from all those I am about to slice and score and smash are but a distant memory.

Thus concludes a quick Appling for Appleday, Appletember 3, 2015. I’m going to break up the apple processing monotony with laundry and cupboard reorganizing. Did I say I was going to whoop it up once the kiddies went back to school or what. Oh baby. This party cannot be contained.

Ice, ice baby…

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Mornin’ all.

I am slowly choking down turbo-charged coffee. I made this batch strong intentionally, so I was ready for the punch to the gullet. I need to be high octane this morning because boy, do I have a lot to do. Today is cake delivery day. *bum bum BUUUUMMM*

…after I finish it, that is.

I’ve made a lot of cakes in my day. I went to pastry school (yes that’s a real thing…a very expensive real thing with student loans that’ll never, ever end…) for a year, and then used the skills at home. This will be the fifth wedding cake I’ve made, so I’m not exactly new. However, this sucker is big.

BIG.

It’s certainly the biggest cake I’ve ever made. It’s got to feed 150 people.

“That means nothing to me, Bethie, since I’ve got no frame of reference.”

Good point. Hm…okay. Here’s how I can explain…

IT’S A LOT OF FRICKEN CAKE! Especially considering I’m working out of my tiny-ass kitchen in my tiny-ass house. Oh I know it’s my own fault. I could have said no. But at the time I said I’d do it, I thought, “Okay, I’ve done a cake for 80 before, no problem. I’ll just double that…” While that’s technically what I did, I do not have a commercial mixer, or a walk in cooler, or a ten foot long work bench…

At one point, before the layers were filled and stacked, they were everywhere. As they were done baking, more would join and the cake infection spread like wildfire. It took over the table. It took over the counters and still it could not be stopped! It took over the stove and we all ran screaming, telling the neighbors to save themselves. It was like some bad sci-fi.

It Came From the Oven

Or a horror movie…

Bakenstein’s Monster

Tasty, tasty horror.

I’ve got the finishing work to do today. It’s a summer wedding, so temperature and humidity come into play. I don’t have a walk in cooler, and the couple did not want fondant. Butter cream. Had to be butter cream. You see, when you’ve got fondant, it acts like a sealant, with the added benefit of helping to maintain a firm structure even under the intensity of a summer day. Butter cream, however, is made with such a high fat to solids ratio that…

…are….are you actually snoring right now?

Fine. We’ll skip the details. But, if you ever DO want to talk shop, I’ve got a great formula for…

*hands up* OKAY. I get it. NO more shop talk. Sheesh. Tough crowd this morning!

My eight-year old came running into the dining room yesterday (he made it past the cake infection without getting bitten and turning into a Night Of the Leavened Bread zombie) to tell me about a fantastic product he saw on tv. Ah, the lure of the infomercial.

It’s a cat arch…um…thing that has wire bristles. The base is filled with catnip, so it lures kitty in, and then as she brushes against the bristles in a nip-induced euphoria, the bristles comb the cat. I told him that it sounded like a good product, but we didn’t have $20 to spend on something we didn’t need. This is what he said.

“But Mum, if we act now we can get two for the price of one! All we have to do is pay for the extra shipping. And when you think about all the time we spend grooming Zelda, it’ll be like saving money. So only twenty bucks for all that seems like a really good deal. We have to call now. I’ll grab you the phone.”

Bet those people with the cat arch thingie would be happy to hear that their ad resonates with someone. I doubt 8 is the target demographic, though.

My eldest used to watch the infomercials and beg for everything he saw, too. They come by it genetically. My dad once gave me a food chopper and a food slicer. He said, “These showed up at my house. I got two sets each, meaning I ordered two and got the ‘free’ one, so now I have four of each.” I asked why he did that, and he said, “I have absolutely no memory of ordering them, but I’m pretty sure it happened after that party we had…”

The slicer’s good. The chopper is more trouble than it’s worth. The image of my dad drunk dialing after watching an infomercial…priceless.

I wonder how many of these deals are sold to drunk people late at night? Especially food products. Drunk or not, no party animal is going to order a work out DVD. But something that’ll help make snacks, well that’s just planning ahead for next time.

When you think of it like that, late night food infomercials are brilliant.

As you can tell by now, I want to write today. I’m revising a book and there were a few sticking points, a couple plot issues I couldn’t figure out how to fix. And then as I was slathering on the 50th lb of butter cream, it came to me. I like when that happens.

…and, I don’t.

See, my “process” (don’t WE sound pretentious this morning?) is utterly random and usually happens at the wrong moment. That’s when I get “inspired”. That’s when ideas come to me. I think that’s because I have the attention span of a tse-tse fly. I just get bored and my mind looks for other things to do. That’s great when I’m in a position where I can put what I’m doing down and focus on writing. Not so great when I’ve got other things that responsibility and personal pride insist I finish. And especially not great at all when it happens in the middle of a conversation with someone else.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I can devote to fixing the plot holes I created. I’ve got to get this book off to my editor. I had hoped to get it up by the end of May. *sheepish shrug*

“Bethie, stop procrastinating.”

You’re right. At this point, I’m just babbling, aren’t I? I’m just nervous as hell. What if this cake turns out not to be what they wanted? What if it doesn’t travel well and I get to the other end and it’s a crumpled heap of sugary disappointment in the bottom of the box? What if the bride looks at it and cries?

WHAT IF I MAKE A BRIDE CRY??

*sigh* “My, Bethie, you need a lot of hand holding this morning.”

*sniff* Maybe.

“Buck up! You’ve made cakes before! You’re almost done, for god’s sake. You’ve got the easy, fun part today!”

…you have a point.

“And you’re doing all the work for free! They already told you they just want a tasty cake. You sure sampled enough of the scrap to know you’ve me the criteria.”

Yeah. …wait…was that a compliment or not? I can’t tell. I didn’t eat THAT much of the scrap…

“Now you stop wasting time and you get in there and you show ’em!”

Okay. *deep breath* This is working. This is calming me down and making me focused. For good or bad, by 4:30 this afternoon, this epic cake commitment will be over. I just have to stick to it and get through it. Totally doable. Right?

I’m not a sporty person, but right now I could use a locker room huddle to pep me up. Who’s in?

*hands in the middle*

One…two…three…BUTTER CREAM!

Thus concludes a rambling Muse for Saturday, July 12, 2014. Can’t wait to drop this behemoth off and be done with it. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked forward to peeling out of an Elks lodge parking lot before.