Monday, February 13, 2012

The Joys & Trials of Being a Bakery Owner

Hello Everyone!!

Hope the year is treating everyone well thus far!
I know it has been for me! Ever since I dove into the adventure of becoming a gluten free baker it has been a nonstop adventure. What I love is taking on items that you would never think to even go gluten free - like croissants or laminated doughs and tackle them. Wednesday I am making gluten free croissants and next week, crusty gluten free bread.

I don't know about everyone else that is gluten free that is out there, but one thing I miss the most is good, I mean really good, crusty bread. Or nice and light bread in general. I appreciate the attempts of some bakeries to provide gluten free bread, but being a professional baker, they fall short. Most seem to be a crumbly dense brick. I want something that is not gritty, that isn't dry, something that you can't even tell is gluten free. And apparently I will have to make that myself.
So, be looking for pictures of the progress as I keep creating more gluten free experiments! Above are some examples of the recent successes.
And again, if anyone ever has any questions, I am always more than happy to answer them if I can.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Its A New Adventure!

So, we are expanding into the realm of entrepreneurship! Just got our own specialty bakery up and running.
Feel free to check us out - or on Facebook under Terrapin Pastries.
It has been a goal of mine for quite some time to be able to work one on one with customers to get the product that they are looking for, as is the case, I am sure with many bakers that I share my profession with. What I hope to establish is a great open door policy that no matter how difficult or impossible you might think an item might be, by working together, we just might get it accomplished!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yellow Beauty's Question

First, my apologies for taking so long to get back to you. My computer had other plans for me apparently. : )
For professional baker's we have it easy. We are able to plan ahead, have all the recipes right there, and simply call in to order what we need and then they even deliver it the next day! Nice!!!
But what about baking at home?
Especially if you are starting from scratch?
Which, I got to experience recently. : ) Quite the experience.
There are two approaches that I take to getting ingredients. The main one, if you are only doing a few recipes, I would just take the actual recipe in the store with you. That way you don't short yourself on an integral ingredient or forget that one item that always seems to be forgotten and believe me, I have made countless return trips to the store for just that item. But, taking the recipes with you has definitely helped me out with that.
The other approach is a more long term approach to shopping. I go to specialty stores as often as I can and by specialty, I mean literally just spices or just chocolate or a flour mill. That gives you the chance to establish a relationship with the smaller stores and instead of supporting the larger chain stores, you are supporting the small business owners. Plus, one perk of the smaller stores is they tend to be knowledgeable in their product and can offer substitutions or other tips to help you get to where you want to be!
Hope that answered your question! It was a good one!

What Works Best For You?

Happy New Year everyone! Hope everybody had a safe holiday season!

I often find myself just stopping to watch other people in the industry working and this can occur anywhere.... The restaurant I work in, the grocery store, farmer's markets, if there are people cooking or baking, you can pretty much find me watching. : ) By watching these people in their element and doing what is natural to them intrigues me....
Often times it launches me into the whole thought process over the fact that there are so many different techniques out there for what we do. That further complicates things when you are trying to train someone because what works for you does not necessarily translate well to the next person.
Take that a step further. I usually end up reading cookbooks like I am sure other people would read a novel. I don't simply flip through to the recipe that sounds the best, I read it front to cover. And over the course of time, you can see what is essentially the same item duplicated so many times over and always with one minor alteration or substitution to make it easier for the baker that wrote it. Bakers tend to be masters of tweaking the recipe to suit our needs. We are taught this from day one. Only have a certain amount of an ingredient? Rewrite the recipe to work with what you have.

So, I guess what I can only stress to everyone when I get asked "What technique do I use?" or, "what's the easiest way to do this?" Find your comfort zone. Become acquainted with the recipes you are working with. Know them inside and out and over time, you will figure out what is comfortable for you. What works best for you will not necessarily what works for the next person down the road, but if it gets you stellar product, then go for it!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wait! Where did the day just go??!!

One thing I have noticed over the years – bakers like to think of we can do it all! You need this? No problem!! How many people? Sure! I can get that done tomorrow! : )
We have an underdeveloped ability to turn down any task at hand. Of course, it doesn’t always help that sometimes there is not a total understanding on the other end of things of exactly how much time and effort goes into even the smallest of tasks in baking.

Being the only baker in my kitchen crew can create some lengthy and sometimes interesting conversations of explaining why the day has ran so long or why something costs so much. But when I just spent a good 12 hours of decorating gingerbread men and shortbread cookies, I’m sorry, but I don’t feel like simply giving them away. And neither do my cramped up hands and back for that matter.

But all in all – I wouldn’t change a thing! Sure, I put in some incredibly long days. But look at what I have been given the chance to do! I get to play with dough and frosting (some days)! Although the novelty of it wears off, I have to say, probably after the fourth sheet pan or so.
Any way! Merry Christmas Everyone!!! Have a great holiday with friends and family! And remember, as always, to show extra grace and kindness to the hospitality field this time of year ;-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Allow me to introduce myself – name’s Melissa. I am a baker.
I guess you could say that it was almost a guarantee that I would be involved to some extent with food, but I ultimately chose to focus on the vast world of baking.
I grew up in southern Oregon. I learned early on to not only appreciate the techniques found in cooking and baking, but also the connection of using local and fresh ingredients. After graduating from high school, my path took me to Napa Valley to start schooling and New York to finish it.
The road continued to a resort north of Lake Tahoe, a stop back in southern Oregon, and finally, Portland where I have been for the past 6 years. One thing that life has taught me over this past ten years of adventure is to not regret any where that life takes you. Each stop along the way had some aspect of either my career that I needed to perfect or personally something that I had to stop and focus on.
It has been a non-stop run and doesn’t look like it will be slowing down any time soon, so I thought this would be the perfect time for me to start this blog to use as an outlet and even simply give everyone a glimpse into the life of a Portland baker.
I thrive on interactivity though, so I would also hope that this blog would be not only used by me, but ultimately by my readers to post their questions or requests on this page. I want to be able to share what I have learned with everyone. I don’t claim to know or have all the answers when it comes to baking, but I will always be honest in answering and I am always looking for the next great challenge to take on! For me, the world of baking is simply not a profession, but a lifestyle!