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Daring Bakers and a shift of focus

February 26, 2010

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

When I started this blog nearly a year ago, I thought I could drive some traffic to my baking business by posting here and there about the goings-on of kitchen witch while throwing in some gorgeous photos of things like Fudge Brownies and Apricot Ginger Scones.

Fudge Brownies

Apricot Ginger Scones

In the months that followed, I started Twittering, launched a new website, and made many blogging friends along the way. I also learned that food blogs containing pictures and stories are nice and all, but what visitors really want is a recipe. Which causes my blog to feel like a culinary no-man’s-land sometimes, as I am reluctant to share the recipes that go along with those photos of Fudge Brownies and Apricot Ginger Scones. I made the business decision early on that recipes of the products I sell, while not exactly original copies of the Magna Carta, still deserve to be held close.

There is only one solution: change my goals for this blog. While I would still love to drive traffic to my ecommerce site, I think it is an uninteresting use of my time and perhaps even a bit disingenuous to my visitors. At its center, blogging is really about connecting, no matter the content of your material. Otherwise, you might as well keep a journal on your bedside table. With these things in mind, and considering that there will still be many recipes that I choose not to share, I am going to try something new here.

A lot of blogs attempt to reach a larger audience by taking on a challenge. Consider Julie Powell working through the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one calendar year. Or the various baking and cooking groups that are prevelant throughout the Internet, such as Daring Bakers and Cooks, Tuesdays with Dorie and Foodie Fights. It has been said that there is no more need for the “cook/bake/stress my way through” another cookbook scheme-turned-blog, but I think I have hit upon something that just might take that idea and give it fresh legs.

From this moment forward, my blog will be devoted to detailing my journey as I take kitchen witch from a home-based business to a retail, brick and mortar outlet. Maybe a bakery or a hybrid cafe, maybe a restaurant or simply a lunch counter, one way or another, I believe that’s where I am headed, and I give the possibility a lot of airtime in my private thoughts. I read books that might help, I tune in to television programs on this topic that catch my attention and I dream.

While there is a lot to say about where I am headed with both the dream and this blog, let me save that for another post so that I may instead focus on this month’s Daring Bakers challenge and how it fits into my new vision.

If I look back at the few months in which I have participated in the Daring Bakers challenges, I would probably detect a common thread in all of my posts. I often feel pressed for time, stressed out and generally annoyed by the challenges (never more so than at the holidays when I really shouldn’t have tried to fit in one. more. thing. Let alone a gingerbread house!) I have often questioned why I joined Daring Bakers if I find the process so frustrating at times. I didn’t have an answer for that until I decided to use this blog to chronicle my journey as a small business owner.

You see, the Daring Bakers challenges are great experience for me in my future life, as I am constantly pushed to make new recipes, employ unfamiliar cooking and baking techniques, and come up with successful dishes. Doing these things puts me in the role of learner, a fabulous place to be in that it gives me insight into what future employees might be thinking as they create some of my pastries for paying customers. It also expands my repertoire. Six months ago I didn’t know what a macaron was; today I would put it in my rotation of sweet treats had I a bakery out of which to make and sell them.

This is how tiramisu becomes the first of the DB challenges that will be put under the culinary microscope as I mull over the question, “Will I serve this in my restaurant?”

An individual tiramisu, made from leftover lady fingers and filling.

The answer is a resounding “No.”

I did not have an easy time following the recipe for this dessert, which is probably much less complex than I made it out to be. There is marscapone (which took me five times longer to make than the recipe provided stated), zabaglione (pretty easy), pastry cream (pretty easy), whipped cream (no brainer) and ladyfingers (also known as savoiardi biscuits, fun to make although takes some practice to really master). There are flavorings of choice (Marsala, port, espresso, rum), and assembling issues. There is the slight snag that, having never made tiramisu before, I couldn’t figure out from the directions that I needed to assemble the different parts in a walled container (like a cake round or a 8-inch square pan). I used a flat, decorative tray, and the results were sloppy to say the least.

Okay, so removing my mistakes and difficulty reading instructions, the building blocks of this dessert turned out well for me and would be easy enough to replicate on a larger scale (for a restaurant). And, with a little practice, I actually think that the assemblage of the different layers would become easier and easier. So what it really boils down to for me is taste. While pleasant enough, the tiramisu that I ended up with was non-traditional to the point of being off-putting due to the addition of lemon peel in several of the components of the dish (the zabaglione and pastry cream). That just didn’t work for me.

I suppose I could omit the lemon from the recipe in the future and add some rum to the espresso soaking mixture (which I left out so that I could share this dessert with my kids). I could soak the lady fingers in the espresso mixture for half a second longer than I did this time.  I could use the appropriate dish to assemble and freeze it instead of simply refrigerating the finished product. Even though it might only take a few little tweaks such as these, I am not convinced.  And to be fair, it could be that even a perfectly-made tiramisu wouldn’t convince me because it is just not my preferred dessert. But regardless if it is the taste, the process or the way it looks on a plate, I have to go with my instincts on this.

Because when it is my store that you are walking into, I want you to be blown away, whether by the Ultimate Cookies or the Apricot Ginger Scones or the Maple Syrup Macarons. But for now, it won’t be by the tiramisu.

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And as always, if you are looking for a home for your rejected or fresh food photography, be sure to visit TasteStopping to submit your photos.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2010 11:53 am

    Caesy, your tiramisu is exactly how I like them – messy and creamy (don’t take that the wrong way!!). I think you prob needed to freeze it before you cut it but anyway… At least you went through the process and all the individual steps came out. I was happy with mine, not blown away and I certainly don’t have all the fancy props or even proper lighting in my dark kitchen in the middle of the Toronto winter to be able to take photos of it so it looks better (TS and FG won’t even prob look at them…). The main problem I had with this is that the recipe was so choppy and LONG. I had Deeba email it to me in Word and I cut and pasted it in the order I needed to do everything, that helped.

    Thanks for posting and cheering us all along the way on Twitter – it really helps to know someone else out there is about ready to chuck the lot in the garbage and start again.

    Glad I found your blog – how can I have missed it???? Subscribing now. :-)

  2. February 27, 2010 3:41 pm

    Interesting post. Too bad you were so disappointed with your tiramisu. I wasn’t blown away by mine either, but it was ok. I do have a better recipe, though, that I make every once in a while.

  3. February 27, 2010 6:08 pm

    All my parts took longer than what the recipe said, maybe because I was paranoid about eggs curdling in the zabagloine and pastry cream. I thought all the lemon was strange too – granted I changed up the flavors anyway but there just seemed to be so much lemon. I thought it tasted fine enough (partially because I really love tiramisu) but aside from the ladyfingers I won’t be making this again.

  4. pragmaticattic permalink
    March 1, 2010 2:51 pm

    Vera at Baking Obession used gelatin to make the dessert hold together–I would take a look at her post if you ever decide to revist tiramisu.

  5. misterrios permalink
    March 14, 2010 5:24 pm

    I also had problems with this one, mainly with the ladyfingers. Somehow I made them too big and had too few to fill up the pan properly. I still thought it was delicious, though, but the whole process took way too long. I did like learning to make all the separate items, because I would have otherwise never made them.

  6. May 19, 2010 9:41 pm

    I completely understand where you are coming from and lately, I feel like I’m on the edge of changing directions with the couple of baking groups I’m in as well. Interestingly, I too, am in the process of taking my home dessert business and getting a location ready to move into. I also, applaud you in keeping your business recipes separate from blogging–I know that sometimes people don’t understand that, but it really is a conflict of interest and you need to protect your main source of livelihood. I wish you luck in your new adventures, and I’m excited to see where your business takes you. :)

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