Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring is around the corner

Mardi Gras is over, Valentine's Day has passed, so now it is time to get ready for the next holiday coming around the corner.  The lenten season has begun and the traffic in the shop has definitely reflected it.  We have been a lot slower this week, which is not great, but it has allowed us to restock after the holidays and get ready for Easter which will be here before we know it.  This week is kind of bittersweet for me (no pun intended) because it is my last week at Bittersweet Confections.  I have learned so much and make many new friends while I have been here.  I have thoroughly enjoyed living and spending time with my parents and while I am sad to be leaving, I am also very excited about coming home to my Tallahassee family and friends and getting started with my own adventure. 

Back to Bittersweet.......spring allows for new decorations and lighter flavors making an appearance.  We have started making more fruit tarts and lemon tarts for the case and this week I also made some lemon bars to start serving.  The lemon bars have a shortbread crust with a tart yet sweet lemon curd which is baked and then dusted with powdered sugar before serving.  The bars at Bittersweet are really more like a lemon chess bar than an actual lemon curd.  There is a little flour in the mix which gives it a little different texture than a traditional curd.  Either way they are delicious and it is nice to have something sweet that is not quite so heavy. 

Spring also brings brighter colors in decorations.  We have started decorating our petite cakes and petit fours with little flowers instead of turkeys and gold swirls.  The contents have not changed, the petit cakes are still a moist chocolate cake, filled with chocolate mousse and coated with chocolate ganache, and the petit fours are still almond cake coated with an almond fondant.  They are just a little brighter now.  :) 

We have also started making spring sugar cookies in the shapes of spring and Easter.  Our sugar cookies are really light and delicious and are decorated with royal icing which is made from powdered sugar, meringue powder, and a little water.  This icing hardens once it dries which allows you to bag the cookies without any damage to the decorations.  This week we made little bunnies, carrots and some little chicks.  I have to say the cookie cutter for the chicks is a little strange because it looks like the feet are backwards, but once they are decorated they look a little more like a chick.  My co-worker and I say he looks like he is leaning waaaay forward like...."Hey, whatcha doin?" 

Next week I will be moving back to Tallahassee to start my next adventure.  If you have liked my Facebook page you now know that I will be starting my business by working and serving as Sweet Inspirations at Connie's Hams and Roasters in Market Square.  I am currently taking orders for Easter and will start serving breakfast April 1st.  I am so nervous and excited at the same time.  I know it is going to be a lot of work, but so worth it.  Be sure to stop by and see me and pick a little something up!

I have been so blessed with all of the support from everyone and all of these amazing opportunities that are coming my way.  Just as I remind you all each week it reminds me that.......Life is Sweet!!!

Until next time......Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What makes the bakery world go round?

A bakery wouldn't be a bakery and wouldn't be able to provide so many yummy treats without it's equipment.  There are many pieces of equipment that we use on a daily basis at the shop. 

Our ovens are convection ovens and we have two of them.  Convection ovens can be either gas or electric.  If the oven is gas you are required to have it under a hood with a fire suppression system.  The ones we use are electric so while the hood is not needed, it is a good idea to have them vent to the outside or it gets really hot inside the kitchen.  Ours at Bittersweet are unfortunately not vented to the outside and so when we are running both ovens it gets like a sauna in there.  When baking in a convection oven you usually set the temperature about 25 degrees lower than the recipe calls for since the convection ovens a little quicker than a conventional oven.  At Bittersweet we bake everything at 300 degrees so that anything we are making be it cookies, cake, muffins, brownies, etc. can be put in the oven together.  This makes things much easier since pretty much on a daily basis we are all working on different items for the shop.

We have two different mixers that we use at Bittersweet.......well, actually three mixers.  We have a regular KitchenAid mixer that we use for very small jobs like royal icing, peanut butter cup filling, etc.  The mixer I use the most often is the 20 quart Hobart mixer.  I use this mixer to make almost everything that can be made in a mixer for the shop:  bagels, brioche, cake batter, brownies, buttercream icing, muffin batter, waffle batter, and so on and so forth.  To give you an idea of the size batches that can be made in this mixer I can make at least 5x what I can make in the KitchenAid mixer, so, that means instead of making one cake at a time I can make up to 5-8 cakes at a time.  The last mixer is our big mama 60 quart Hobart mixer.  I use this bad boy whenever I need to make a huge batch of anything.  Ok, for a visual......when making brioche I can get one brioche ball in the KitchenAid mixer, 5 brioche balls out of the 20 qt mixer, and 18 balls of brioche out of the 60 qt mixer.  We used this one a lot during king cake season to make the brioche and the fillings, and also during Super Bowl week to make all of the red velvet cupcakes and brownies for the booth on Super Bowl Boulevard.  I don't know that I will need a 60 qt anytime soon for Sweet Inspirations, but I am definitely on the lookout for a good used 20qt. mixer.  So make sure and let me know if you see a good deal!  :)

Of course we have a fridge and freezer in the shop as well.  The cooler/ fridge that we use is a three door model that is located in the kitchen with us.  Sometimes, it seems like it is a little too small for the operation and the owner looked into a walk in cooler, but I think she has decided to stick with what we have for now.  I will definitely be looking into a walk in cooler for my shop and hopefully a either a walk in freezer or at least a 3 door reach in freezer.  In my opinion you want to make sure you have room for everything you need and with a fridge or a freezer you want there to be plenty of room for the cool air to circulate and keep everything at the proper temperatures.

There are many, many other pieces of equipment that we use in the shop and now that I am moving towards my own business I am realizing just how many things I am going to need to purchase.  It is a little scary but I have faith that slowly but surely everything will work out.  This is my dream and I know that I can do this!!!

I know this hasn't been the most exciting post, but I hope you have enjoyed the little bit of an inside look to the bakery. 

Keep it Sweet and live life to it's fullest!  Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!!!

Oh, here is a little sneak peak at my logo for Sweet Inspirations.  Hope you like it!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is here and love is in the air!  I have always loved Valentine's day.  Even though we should show our loved ones how much we care every day it is nice to have a day each year to really take the time to say I care and I love you.  It doesn't have to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or can be a friend or other family member.  Valentine's Day has got to be one of the busiest times of the year in the confections industry and while it is fantastic to be busy, it is even more important to tell those you love them, that you care, that you appreciate them.

I am so blessed to have so many people in my life who have been supportive of me and my journey and I would love to thank each and every one of them here, but I am so afraid that I will miss someone so at the risk of hurting someones feeling unintentionally I will say you know who you it my family, friends, co-workers, teachers, or just anyone who has had an encouraging word.  Just by reading this blog you are showing your support so Thank you and I appreciate all of you!  I wish you a very Happy Valentine's Day!!

Now, on to the goodies!  For Valentine's day at Bittersweet Confections we have prepared many delicious and delectable goodies for your loved one.

Of course we have made lots of our decadent truffles and even made a few special "visiting" flavors like strawberry balsamic, and passion fruit for the holiday.  These truffles are made with 58% Swiss chocolate and natural fruit purees and flavorings.

Cheesecakes have made an appearance once again because how romantic is cheesecake!  I have to say our recipe is so delicious and creamy with a traditional graham cracker crust, some light whipped topping and a luscious berry on top.

We have some special flavors of cupcakes for the holiday as well.  We have a chocolate cupcake topped with a strawberry buttercream, a vanilla cupcake with a passion fruit buttercream icing, and a romantic chocolate raspberry cupcake.  Earlier this week we made fondant hearts for the tops of the cupcakes as decoration. 

Who doesn't love a super cute decorated sugar cookie!  We have some luscious lips and some super cute hearts for everyone.  The sugar cookies are rolled, cute and baked and then decorated with royal icing.  The outlines are piped out and then the icing is thinned and little and the outlines are filled in so the cookies come out super smooth and beautiful.

Of course there are other goodies decorated for Valentine's Day like our chocoalte gananche petite cakes, strawberries and petit fours too!

I can't wait to be back in Tallahassee for next Valentine's day to bring some of these amazing flavors to all of you back home.  I will be announcing some amazing news in the next week so be sure and check back soon! 

I leave with a wish for each of you to have a life full of love and laughter and a Happy Valentine's Day from me to you.  Life is Sweet!  Remember to always Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!!!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Breakfast......the most importat meal of the day!

Most of us tend to skip breakfast in the rush to get the kids ready for school, ourselves ready for work, and out the door.  Well, maybe after reading this post you might be just a little more tempted to take a few minutes to have a little something.  Maybe stop by and grab a little something on your way into the office.  (This is a little hint at amazing things to come for Sweet Inspirations.......more details to come soon.) 

We make several breakfast items for Bittersweet Confections and all of them are super delicious!  A lot of the prep is done beforehand by myself and then Grace comes in early each morning to get things ready for purchase.  We are a great team if I do say so myself.  :)

Bagels are a big part of our breakfast offerings and I make large batches at least twice a week.  The dough is made using bread flour, salt, malt, instant yeast and water.  Once the dough has reached the right consistency I then roll each bagel by hand "with tender loving care".  lol  I have to move quickly rolling the bagels because you don't want the dough to start rising on you.  Once all of the bagels are rolled we place them in the freezer to stop the rising process.  Each afternoon the number of bagels are pulled for the next day and placed into the cooler to thaw and start rising overnight.  The next morning the bagels are boiled in a mixture of honey and water topped with toppings and baked in the oven until they have a nice chewy crust on the outside and tender in the middle.  Delicious with a little cream cheese or our honey cream cheese.

Right now we offer one type of muffin and that would be blueberry......shocking I know.  We make a sour cream based muffin batter and store it in the cooler.  Each day fresh blueberries are added and after the batter is scooped into the muffin tin it is topped with a streusal mixture and baked until fluffy and tender. 

We offer two types of scones for breakfast, orange cranberry and chocolate chip, and trust me it is hard to choose between the two.  What is a scone you ask????  Well, a scone is sort of like a sweet biscuit.......only better!  To make our scones the dry ingredients are placed into the mixer and then butter is cut up and incorporated into the dry until there are coarse crumbles of butter mixed throughout.  The optional ingredients (orange zest and cranberries, or chocolate chips) are then added and incorporated.  Buttermilk is then drizzled into the mixture just until everything comes together.  You have to be careful not to overmix the dough or you will end up with a tough scone........and no one wants a tough scone.  :)  The scones are frozen and then baked fresh every morning.

Cinnamon rolls have to be one of the biggest sellers we have and it is no surprise because they are oh so good.  Eat your heart out Cinnabon!  We start with a made from scratch brioche dough and that is rolled out and covered with a cinnamon/ brown sugar/ butter spread.  The dough is then rolled up into a spiral and cut into the individual rolls, set in a pan to rise and then baked to prefection.  We top each warm roll with a cream cheese icing that is to die for.  People order these all day long with a cup of coffee and can get upset when they have waited too long and we have sold out.  We just tempt them with some other delight we have for the day.

These are just a few of the offerings we have for breakfast.  We also make croissants, chocolate croissants, turnovers, and shoe soles (elephant ears to some).  You can count on Sweet Inspirations to have these and much more for your breakfast pleasure so I look forward to seeing you all bake in Tally soon!  (Just in case you are wondering......yes, that is another hint!)

Until next post remember.......Life is Sweet so get out there and enjoy it!

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!