Thursday, 11 November 2010

Feel the Fear...

There are some irrational fears I have. Driving a car, carpet sharks (they're real, I swear, they just disappear when the light comes on) and making pastry.

The lack of car driving is a fairly substantial stumbling block for some forms of business expansion. I believe there will come a point when the desire to drive for the business will be greater than my fear I will kill someone with a car and I will finally learn to do it. Or I'll earn enough to hire a driver.

Carpet sharks are unlikely to create a problem in a baking business.

Pastry... well, pastry is a different thing entirely. If I could do it with confidence I could expand my product range. It can't be that hard, loads of people manage it. Last year I swore I'd get the hang of pastry in 2010 and I'm swiftly running out of time.

You will no doubt be stunned to hear (yeah right) that when a client asked if I do mince pies I said, "Sure, no problem". I thought it would force me to pull my finger out and get down to it. Then I faffed about thinking about whether or not to buy a food processor which everyone says makes pastry easier - but how long would it take to recoup the cost? In the end I got a little trigger happy at John Lewis online, when buying the replacement dishwasher and ordered a cheap Kenwood model which was delivered yesterday.

Christmas is not nearly as far away as I would like so Finger-Pulling-Out day is clearly upon me.

I like to be thorough when I try something new. I have all my favourite baking books splayed around me and I am making their recipes for pastry one by one. Rachel Allen's shortcrust is resting in the fridge as I type, Nigella Lawson's mince pie pastry is weight out and chilling in the freezer before mixing as per her instructions. Personally, Nigella's emphasis on iced water,
chilled orange juice and frozen ingredients is rather freaking me out. I have warm hands and a hot kitchen and I'm trying not to feel doomed before I start.

Next will be Nigel Slater's recipe from Appetite, which is heavier on the butter than the others - sums Nigel up in a sentence, bless his delicious fattening soul. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's
recipe uses 2 egg yolks and I expect will be too expensive for me to use commercially. Annie Bell favours the inclusion of ground almonds, Prue Leith is a fan of egg yolk but uses one to Hugh's two.

I'll let you know how I got on.

As for the business...
I guess the biggest change is in the number of hours I am working. I am definitely full time now. There's a happy balance between work for the Deli and the play centre - one is busiest on
pleasant days when people pop out for coffee whilst the other is heaving on rainy days when kids need a dry place to run around. I do marginally more work each week for the play centre and it's confined to one mad busy baking day. The Deli remains 3 deliveries a week.

Another change is in the number of private commissions I'm doing. I've put a few photos up of some recent ones. The Hello Kitty cake was a roaring success. I have concerns about using a copyrighted image and have contacted the copyright owner for advice but they took so long getting back to me (have yet to hear!) that I got on with it.

The cake with heather and white roses had me scratching my head for a while. The family has roots in Yorkshire and Scotland and wanted to represent both florally on the cake. It's the biggest cake I'd done (12 inch square). I found the madeira cake recipe x 1.5 was about right for each layer. I bottled out of doing my own white roses and bought some instead. The heather was a result of something Lesley said when I was fretting about modelling heather, "or maybe piping it would be better." Of course! Heather is a brown twiggy stalk with loads of tiny little round flowers in clusters, and I could definitely manage that in royal icing.

It took longer than I thought (doesn't it always) but I was pleased with the result. The client was absolutely thrilled, yay!
Oh, the lettering was white overpiped with a thin line of the heather colour. It looked much better on the cake than it looks in the photo!
The black and white cake was a rush job and they didn't want to spend too much. A parent from school needed a 40th birthday cake for 3 days to go with a black, white and silver themed party. I went all Mary Quant with circles and trimmed the base with black satin ribbon with a band of silver across the centre. I think it looks pretty effective.

Anyway, all this blogging is just an excuse not to make that pastry. Best get on with it!

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