Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An uncomplicated life...

In a moment of unintentional self discovery I came to understand how I deal with stress. My personal life very rarely stresses me out. It's generally work that gets under my skin, especially when it comes to this time of year- competition season. For those of you who are oblivious to exactly how nerdy the coffee world is, let me fill you in. 
So, on an annual basis there are a myriad of barista competitions (yes...it's real) that go on around the world. In the United States, these events are broken down into regions (10 in all) and one national (the SCAA's United States Barista Championship). The person who wins the USBC gets to advance to being the only US representative in the World Barista Championship, which is the highest level...at least until we discover alien races, for they will inevitably love coffee. 
As far the rules and format, I could go on and on so I will simply direct the interested parties to do their own research here. These events have been around since 2001 if my memory serves me correctly. My company has been involved pretty much since it's inception as one of the owners was involved in getting it off the ground. This will make my 8th year of being involved in some capacity (3 years competing and on my 5th year of judging). 
So, the Midwest Regional is this weekend and my boys have been practicing heavily for a few months now. Our company is actually growing and in a very exciting period of its history, but we are still a little on the smaller side staff wise. Everyone we have right now is stellar which makes it easier to handle growth, but there is plenty for everyone to do :) This has little to do with competition, except that my competitors are both key players outside of putting in their own time. No one is making anyone do anything...we are all there of our volition and love of the barista craft and a drive to perfect it. We are very fortunate to have bosses that are supportive and create opportunities such as this to further our personal education and goals (and I really DO feel that way). Expectations from the outside have started to be of less and less importance to me, which leads to the whole stress part. I want everyone to do well, I was to be of help to them through my experience and lending my own hands (to polish innumerable dishes). I also want to make sure that through out the time I am doing this that I'm not slacking off on my actual job duties. Even though it can be rough, exhausting, obnoxious, crazy ( I could keep going with the adjectives here) I still feel like it's manageable. That is, as long as my personal life isn't complicated. 
So, that was actually the realization. That last sentence there. I'm not saying that my personal life is super challenging...not by any stretch. What I realized is that it has to be entirely uncomplicated. The most minor of complications gets me in a bit of a tizzy because I have unreasonable expectations of those who play more of a fun/relaxed role in my life. I forget that friends and family can't always be my 'chill zone' as I have come to see them as. They are just as human as me and some of them have way more stressful situations going on than I could even conjure up. Or, they have a different threshold or outlet for their own stress that may or may not be compatible with mine. Stress makes most people selfish. It makes me a martyr, which may be just as selfish, if not more so, when it manifests in a totally unnecessary way...
So yeah, just something I am mulling over right now. I need to relax and decompress in a way that I don't know that I have time for, but the only thing that is certain is that this won't kill me. So....there's that :) 
Next- Is Holly manifesting signs and symptoms of a workaholic. Tune in next time...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bacon Cookies and Goodbyes

So, Pete left a couple of days ago for Hawaii...and for those of you who don't know, it's not a vacation. He's living there for a minimum of 6 months (as per the lease that he secured today) and gets to make coffee with an ocean breeze on his face. Not that I'm bitter. If you want to know more about his new and awesome hijinks check out the link for his blog on my sidebar (UnLandLocked). In honor of the departure of my oldest friend, I will finally post about the bacon cookies experiment, the most successful of the savory/sweet concoctions. 
So, the recipe was given to Pete and I by some of the people at Kaldi's (a coffee company out of St. Louis) when we were there for a jam early in November. We started talking about the bacon+chocolate candy bar and we found out there were plenty of people who were just as interested in this unorthodox mix as we were. 

So, the cookies themselves were actually bacon, oatmeal and butterscotch chip. The baking portion went well, as chronicled in these pictures...

So first things first- bake off the bacon. We purchased 3 different types of bacon for this experiement- Thick cut hickory smoked, thick cut smoked, and regular hickory smoked. All were basted with a mixture of maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. mmm...

In the inevitable nibbling that went on as we took it off the baking sheets we decided that thinner cut was really the way to go, and the fattier the better. We then went about following the recipe and making the dough. Here it is after the first helping of bacon-

Stir it in!

After a taste, we quickly decide that it needs something...

More bacon!

We then let them bake for about 10 minutes-

and while we wait, Pete can't help himself-

And the finished product-

So that's bacon cookies in a nut shell. They were actually quite fabulous. Pete can put in his two cents via comments. If anyone wants the recipe, leave a comment and I will email it to you to try out. There are some things I have learned about baking with bacon-

1-NEVER use bacon grease in place of oil or butter. It's not that it tastes bad, but it makes you feel funny later. 
2-Don't think you need to balance out the bacon with darker chocolate or more butterscotch chips than the recipe calls for. Bacon honestly can't hold its own as well as you might think. Milk chocolate is a better vehicle than dark chocolate.
3-Tiny chunks of bacon are not as effective as medium sized chunks. It really doesn't take much sugar to drown it out (see #2)
4-Thinner cut/fatty bacon is better for baking than what you would normally choose to consume on its own. 
5-Bacon has its limits. It's sometimes better as a pairing of sorts, rather than being integrated into something else.

So, there you have it. That's bacon baking. I don't know if this will be of interest to anyone in particular, but if you are interested just let me know and I will provide you with a few ideas to get you started.