Monthly Archives: December 2015

I Am the Baking Minion

I asked my favorite minion, Ashley Voris, if she’d like to write a blog post for me, seeing as her second book is now in print. She writes a wonderful kid’s book series called Abby the Labby. Book 2 was released at the beginning of December. I gave her full-rights to pick what she wanted to talk about. I assumed it would be related to her passion for animal rescue. She surprised me by picking a different topic all-together. And I love her for it. 

A Day in the Life of a Bakery Assistant
Ashley Voris

My friend, Kate, is one of the most business savvy people I know. Among her many businesses, including Golden Fleece Press, she owns a bakery. Irongate Bakery is the name. She owns this business with her best friend and partner, Kim. The run their bakery out of their homes. Kim does quite a bit of the gluten free items, since she can’t have wheat. Kate does most of the cookies. They attend several events throughout the year and are very well known at these events. In fact, they are known as “The Cookie Girls” when they attend the DC Big Flea. They sell other things beside baked goods. They sell and assortment of teas, including tea bricks, yes….I said tea bricks…..as well as other tea paraphernalia. During baking week, the week before a show, it is a flurry of flour, sheaves of sugar everywhere, and total coconut chaos. Everything has to be baked, packaged, weighed, stickered with ingredients, and packed in large bags, ready to be packed in the car. Kate’s mother, BR, does a good portion of the baking.

I became involved this past year. It was baking week and I offered help one night after picking up copies of my book. I helped pack cookies until close to midnight. They were still baking. I offered my help in the future and they gladly accepted. On my first day, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t really understand the large amount of baking that was taking place. I had husband drop me off on his way to work on the Thursday morning. It was rather early for me. I mean, we all know that I am not that much of a morning person. BR offered me coffee and breakfast. Coffeeeeee……

Anyhow, it was early in the morning and she was already baking. It was cookie day. My job was to bag the cookies, weigh them, write the weight on the label, and stick the label on the back of the package. The labels identify the type of cookie as well as the ingredients. Those are kind of important to know, especially if you have an allergy. I was up to my elbows in chocolate chip cookies. It was heavenly. I, of course, had to sample the products. The brownies are particularly delicious. We managed to get everything done in record time. BR usually started the Irish Soda Bread at 9 to 10pm at night, if they were lucky. With my help, the bread was in before dinner. That is how I became the Baking Minion.

I have helped a few times now. BR and I work well in the kitchen and she doesn’t really have to give me any direction. I love Cookie Day. That is the only day I work. There are other days. Nut Days. Gluten Free Day. It wasn’t until I was packaging the Irish Oat Cakes, that I noticed there was far more going on than just baking. The only food allergies I have are not very common ones– white grapes, ginger, and I’m lactose sensitive. I can’t have white wines or sultanas. Anything that has a ginger sauce, or milk and ice cream. Not that the lactose thing stops me from having a milkshake. But they are not going to kill me. The white grapes make me violently ill for a couple of days, but I’m not going to die. However, cookies with nut pose a problem for people who are allergic, like Kate, and any form of wheat can make people with a gluten allergy incredibly sick. So, how does a small bakery based out of a kitchen fix this problem? Easy. As I stated above, there are other days. Nut Day is dedicated to making things that contain nuts of any kind. To avoid any possible contamination, there is a box that has measuring cups, spatulas, etc, that are only used for nuts. There is even a different color of shirt you must wear when handling nut products. (As an aside, coconut qualifies as an actual nut. I didn’t know that. I felt silly.) Once the nuts are done, everything stops, and the decontamination begins. All the nut dishes are washed in really hot water, dried with towels used only for nuts, and put back in the nut box. Then the entire kitchen is scoured top to bottom. First is a wipe down on hot, soapy water. Once that dries, we break out the Clorox Wipes. Everything gets cleaned. Once the Clorox dries, we take a wet paper towel, wipe off the counters, then dry that with a paper towel. The nut shirts get washed on their own.

Gluten Free Day is much more intense. I don’t work on gluten free day. I mean, there are things I would never have thought was a problem until Gluten Free Day was explained to me. GF items have their own….everything. Shirts, towels, dishes, mixers, measuring cups and spoons, etc. All of the GF items are kept in bags, which are kept on a cart, which is kept away from everything on a daily basis. To avoid any confusion as to what is GF and what is not, all the GF items are red. I mean, bright red. You can’t miss it. You cannot wear a red shirt while you are making non-GF items. The smallest amount of flour can contaminate an entire batch and can make people sick. The cleaning process after GF baking is just as thorough and intense as cleaning up after Nut Day. It has to be. Since I don’t have those allergies, I never gave them a second thought. I can eat nuts. I can eat wheat. I never thought about using different baking utensils or different shirt. I still have a tiny problem with remembering. I would go from packaging chocolate chip cookies to packaging the Irish Oat Cakes. Those have coconut. I always catch myself before I move on to a different product and let BR know so that she can get me a different color shirt. I put my regular shirt back on only when I am leaving.

Some of the goodies that and particularly partial to are the Irish Oat Cakes, Brownies, Sugar Cookies, and, of course, the Chocolate Chip Cookies. I love baking day. I really do. I have learned so much about baking from BR.

So how does a day of baking usually go? Like this.

  • Arrival and coffee
  • Labeling the nut cookies
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Packaging cookies
  • Labeling cookies
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Packaging cookies
  • Labeling cookies
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Lunch!
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Packaging cookies
  • Labeling cookies
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Baking
  • Labeling
  • Labeling
  • Labeling
  • Cutting up the brownies
  • Packaging the brownies
  • Labeling the brownies
  • Change my shirt to a Nut Shirt
  • Break up the Irish Oat Cakes
  • Packaging the Oat Cakes
  • Labeling the Oat Cakes
  • Change shirt
  • Decontaminate the counter from Oat Cake
  • Packaging the last of the cookies
  • Labeling the last of the cookies
  • Say hello to Kate
  • Dinner

That is about it. Cookies everywhere! I’m ever hopeful that Kate is able to open an actual bakery. That would be awesome. One day…..

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Sunday Night Music: And the Waltz Goes On

Written by Sir Anthony Hopkins

This is a beautiful waltz.

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Sunday Night Music: Firefly

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December 6, 2015 · 3:15 am