April 4, 2011
Justin and I have a childish pride thing that goes on with our cinnamon rolls. I preface all of this by saying that of course we each want the other to be wildly successful which makes us good business partners and friends BUT when it comes to the rolls, we each have our own recipe to which we are biased…
His have the white icing – they’re made out of artisan bread dough (artisan is a word we use to sound artsy and hard-working or something) - the icing is buttery and sweet but they also have a good hint of salt – and strange-but-true ingredient – black pepper – and they’re delicious.
Mine are my mom’s recipe – she’d mix them up Saturday night and my family would eat them Sunday morning before church. And then a second one after church, until we all started to get a bit chunky and she quit making them except for special occasions. Her recipe used a box of Pillsbury dough mix but I knew I couldn’t build a bakery based on a product that wasn’t from-scratch – so she and I pored over the ingredient list and worked it out so that yeah, now they’re from scratch. They rise in a gooey mixture of brown sugar and whipping cream which turns into caramel when they bake. They’re soft and a bit cakier where Justin’s are a bit chewier, and they have the crunch of walnuts, and they’re my all-time comfort food.
Justin’s are the crowd-pleasing favorites. They’re prettier. They always sell out first. I pretend not to feel anxious when his are gone and there are still a bunch of mine stacked up on the table. Justin’s are the ones people come for week after week with their mouth watering, saying they need their ‘fix.’ They are Farmer’s Market prez Radell Schrock’s favorite. People use words like “best ever.” This is great, just great, but I couldn’t help making a ‘haha take that’ type of comment in Justin’s ear when his grandpa bought one of mine last Saturday, and I’m basking in the glow of an email I read last night from Jeanine Wilson who said…
“Growing up in Rochester, NY we had bakery about a mile from our house called the Oven Door Bakery. We would go there on Saturdays for a special treat. One of my favorite things was a sticky bun that they would make. When I was in college I heard they were trying to sell the bakery and their srecipes b/c the owner was retiring. Unfortunately, no one bought the bakery. I have often times craved their sticky buns and miss going to the bakery when I go back home. Since they’ve closed I haven’t had anything close to their sticky buns until today!! Your sticky bun came very close to the same taste and look as theirs. Thank you!! You have so many unique and wonderful things. I really hope your bakery continues to be a success for you!”
Anyway, that is all just good-natured silliness and an excuse to brag up our favorite product.
We often get questions about who does what for the business. It’s taken some time to figure out who is stronger in which areas but after about a year and a half we’ve fallen into different roles that feel pretty comfortable. The breakdown goes something like this:
Things that Justin does the bulk of…
-finances (tax stuff, bank deposits, fee-paying…)
-transporting our stuff around in his vehicle and setting up/tearing down at market
-a bigger percentage of baking for the Market
-GF bread – he figured out how to make this tricky stuff hold its shape better than I ever could
-everything involving pie crusts
-packaging things up for people at the Market
-if/when we open a storefront he’ll be the one flying around the kitchen manning the grill, etc
-reassuring me and giving perspective when I freak out
These are the things I mostly do…
-marketing/branding (logo design, signage, print pieces, fbook, emails, blog, Market table layout, chalkboard…)
-baking and delivery to Midtowne Market and Downtown Wine & Gourmet (sourdough)
-networking and personal connection stuff – for example, chatting with Market customers about their fabulous jewelry or hairstyle or favorite pastry (Justin does not enjoy talking about hairstyles unless it involves dreadlocks)
-new product experimenting
That’s all I can think of at the moment. Bottom line here is that we really like working together and feel pretty lucky in terms of this partnership.
Well……….we’ve mainly been throwing our energies into the Market but we know it’s time to do some serious big-picture planning so we don’t keep letting the months slip away without taking steps toward actually opening a space downtown. We are still batting around the Airstream trailer idea (the taco truck concept) but a big part of this for me is creating a SPACE where people want to be, and we can’t do that unless we have…a space where people can be.
I think that one way I love people is by feeding them…how great would it be to do this full time and actually make some money while doing it? That’s the goal.
I’m rearranging my schedule so that Tuesday afternoons can now be a ‘build-the-bakery’ time where I get out of the house and consume lots of coffee and free wifi downtown while sending emails to the folks at the Staunton Community Creative Fund, Rosetta Stone, other restaurants downtown, etc in hopes of getting a loan or a big contract or something. Or maybe for a while we just keep trying to grow our sales at the market – we’ve been selling out fairly consistently so maybe it’s time to take on another person to do some baking for us, because we’re kind of maxed out on time and oven-space.
Where do we want to be a year from now? Five years from now? Still very much fleshing that out but DUDE, don’t keep it to yourself if you’ve got any grand ideas…or small ideas. I believe in it.
Whew, this got long. Mom and Dad you’re probably the only ones who made it to the end.
December 19, 2010
Justin and I feel like we are becoming known as ‘the gluten-free bakery.’ That makes us feel proud but also misunderstood, because the GF thing is really pretty new to us and was never the reason we got into baking. And it is not the sum of our business.
I have a friend with gluten and dairy allergies and took up the challenge of baking for him… and things have sort of just gone from there. Doing GF baking is what got us into the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market – because no one else is doing it. It’s HARD – rice flours don’t act like wheat flours and we’ve thrown away plenty of flops when trying to convert a ‘normal’ recipe into a GF one. The flip side is that meeting GF folks and having them come back week after week for ‘the best GF bread I’ve ever had’ is terribly rewarding. The bread…the bread…our GF multigrain has neat ingredients in it and looks lovely but, personally we don’t care for it, and that makes us feel weird selling it. Other than the bread though, the GF items we sell taste pretty much like their wheat-filled counterparts – brownies, lemon bars, granola, etc etc. We’re happy to polish off leftovers.
In the next couple of months our goal is to write an official business plan and crunch numbers to see what it will take to open a little spot downtown. A cozy spot with art on the walls and plants and bookshelves and good music. Our downtown location will not be a gluten-free bakery. Our hope is to carry some gluten-free and dairy-free and vegan items, but our favorite things to make and the ones we hope to sell tons of are cinnamon rolls, breakfast biscuits, strombolis, hearty sandwiches on great bread, soup… We’ve been making lists and doing lots of recipe trials in hopes of soon finalizing what will become our breakfast and lunch menu.Anyway, maybe this helps fill in some gaps and answer ‘what’s the deal with Brown Butter Bakery?’ We’re loving this.
December 18, 2010
Post Farmer’s Market 12/18: I am horrified to realize that I labeled our granola gluten-free when it in fact had wheat germ in it. If you are gluten-intolerant I am so, so sorry. Contact me if you’d like your money back and a personal apology. The amount was about a half cup of wheat germ in a big roasting pan’s worth of granola.
December 8, 2010
I’ve been trying to decide how to best use my advertising/promotional minutes, of which I have few…
I think it is not this blog. The most important thing seems to be letting people know what we have for sale where, and I do that through our Brown Butter Bakery Facebook page and through our email list. If you’re not a part of either of those and would like to be, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll continue to keep this blog active but will rarely post (not like I’ve been writing very much here anyway). Who knows when I’ll need to share or rant about something though! And now that I’ve made this disclaimer I don’t need to feel guilty about my lack of posts, right?
November 15, 2010
If you’re interested in receiving a weekly (sometimes less often) email with bakery updates and a list of what we’ll have at the Farmer’s Market, let me know by writing email@example.com
October 11, 2010
Took gluten-free bread for communion at my church last Sunday. Got up early to bake so that it would be still-warm, as I wanted people’s first experience with GF bread to be as good as possible. I worried that it would crumble all over the floor as pieces were broken off for each person - since gluten is what makes bread stretchy and helps hold its shape. I wasn’t able to go forward since lately my son is a major handful in church, so I still wonder if there were crumbles…
I received several positive comments afterwards but my favorite moment was seeing an individual who has Celiac disease standing in line and knowing that this time she wouldn’t need to leave empty-handed.
Felt awkward charging for this loaf but am really trying to treat the business as a business otherwise I’m afraid we’d never charge anyone. We absolutely want giving/donating to be part of our business plan but haven’t fleshed out exactly how or when, yet.
We are getting excited for our first Saturday Farmer’s Market this coming weekend. Trying to figure out a way to serve cinnamon rolls WARM. Our cinnamon rolls are not gluten-free…it’s this confusing thing where everything we serve at the Market is GF except the rolls. We’ve tried converting them but haven’t found a good solution. I hate telling GF folks that they can’t eat the most delicious-looking thing on our table but for now that’s where we’re at. We keep navigating the GF/not-GF issue and are trying to find the right path.
October 4, 2010
Cake - my first ever multiple-layer one. The birthday gal fawned appropriately over it but we agreed that cake just isn’t really our thing. It was nice to bake for fun and not have to deliver anywhere or invoice anyone. The red and golden raspberries from the Farmer’s Market were fab. Oh and remember all of that leftover vanilla bean icing from the wedding? Yeah.