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Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Develop New Recipes

OK L.A.B. Rats,

Just for once, I'm going to throw a post at you that is void of bells, whistles or Kleckoisms.

Today we are going to screw our minds on tight.....and do our best to focus.

My question to you is "Do you have a system, or formula for putting together new recipes?"

As you can imagine, that's part of my job description.

Funny thing though, during all my years in "The Show", I've never met 2 people who go about this the same way.

The first thing I like to ask myself is....

"What is the purpose?"

I think it was my last post where I posted that Hemp-Pecan cookie recipe.

One of the reasons I decided to make this was because I am adding several menu items that will rezonate with a younger base.

It's getting to the point in my career where many chefs, F&B's and other peeps with purchasing power are 1/2 my age.

Even though wisdom goes along with added birthday candles, people you do biz with want to make sure that their source is "Culinary Forward."

So with that in mind, I've (we've) launched a new campaign where I work with a more youthful vibe.

Starting this week, we will have 1/4 page ads in the Cities #1 free weekly rag, with pictures that are comprised of youthful, diversified people doing fun things in a fast paced metropolitan setting.

So that's why the first cookie I launched was the Hemp-Pecan. It skews so many demographics, and that's the name of the game guys.

So the first step I take, is I go onto the web and Google my topic of interest.

Praise Polish Christ for this tool. It seems like just yesterday that I would have to buy entire cookbooks just for a single recipe.

However....there are a lot of dumb a**es on the net as well.

I can't tell you how many bogus recipes I've encountered.

So now that your topic is selected, peruse the top 1/2 dozen recipes under your themes heading.

Look to see which ingredients, and methods seem to be universal, and then do your best to determine which ingredients the author may have thrown in to make this a unique signiture recipe.

The more you are familiar with a medium, the easier this process will become. For me, I've bounced through so many bread recipes over the years, I can do this with little effort.

But cookies on the other hand, I have worked with them sporadically, just enough to get myself in trouble.

So after looking through 8-9 or 10 Hemp-Pecan formulas, the following was the one that embodied the direction I wanted to go with.

The following came off "A Few Scraps" blogsite..........

Christina's Hemp Seed Cookies

2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup applesauce (a little single serving applesauce cup happens to be 1/4 cup!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup hulled hemp seed
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 handful each chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chips

After looking at this recipe, Christina's ingredient percentages seemed spot on to me, and to be honest.....I really have no problem paying tribute to another baker and following their lead, I mean...it seems like so many cooks/chefs/and bakers feel as if they have to put their own signiture on something just to differeniate themselves from others....sigh.

I think that's childish. If I were a person with great painting skills, I would have no problem trying to impress you by replecating Mona Lisa or The Last Supper.

But remember, on this recipe Klecko wants the ingredients to appear youthful.

But whats the liquid agent in Christina's recipe, the ingredient that will end up binding the cookie?

Apple Sauce.

Let's face it, I do dig a little apple sauce here and there, but it isn't exactlly an ingredient prioritized by America's youth. In fact....apple sauce denotes "Old People" much like margerine, prunes and Fig Newtons.

So that was the first thing I had to swap out.

Also when I looked at the different flours, I had whole wheat, hemp seeds, flax meal and pecans.

There really isn't much gluten in that "flour base" so you can see immediatley that using an apple sauce for your liquid would certainly make it level 10 dense.

What could Klecko do to "lighten" this up a bit, w/o sacrificing the sweetness that we forfeited by ommiting the apple sauce?

My first thought was to use honey.

Honey is one of those default ingredients that you can never go wrong with, my baking instructors used to preach that it was the "Black Shoes" of your baking ensamble.

It pretty much goes with anything.

but sometimes when I've made up my mind, and decided I've found my answer....I kinda like to consult the angels of Warsaw and ask if there were any details that I may have overlooked.

I'm glad i did this, because Saint Faustina sent an epiphany to me.....

"Klecko.....why don't you swap out the honey for blue agave?"

This made total sense. Agave has a thinner viscosity, therefore our cookies base weight will be lighter, and the nice thing about agave is that it is really sweet, so the swap with honey wasn't going to decrease flavor.

Then my last thought on this topic is crucial, but not always easy to obtain.

When I prepare for a new recipe, I don't just write out the formula and show it to people for imput.

I like to scale out the ingredients, line them up on a table, and then see if I can find a second pair of eyes that I respect to double check my thought process.

I am not too proud to admit that by deferring to my colleagues, I have saved myself countless hours of R&D.

It will never cease to amaze me how each baker looks at a concepts through different lenses.

Case in point, I had all the ingredients listed above on top of a pallet of flour, when I called over my new pastry chef Hennessey.

She eyeballed everything, and then stopped for a moment with an inquisitive look....

"Did you taste that agave Klecko?" she asked.

When I informed her that I hadn't cracked the seal yet, she did and proceeded to taste it.......

"Whoa.....thats pretty sweet Danny. I'm not so sure you will want to use the granulated sugar. If you do....I'm guessing it will be way too sweet."

So I replaced that portion with a brown sugar.

Lo and Behold......when the first batch came out of the oven.....We were both really happy with the shape, consistancy and flavor profile.

Very-Very-Very seldom do you nail something like this on your first time.

I was pretty certain I had, but then the following day I saw Hennessey and her husband at the gym, and we both agreed that our 2nd day shelf life was a little advanced.....I.E. - we probably baked them a little longer than needed.

I also dropped a sample batch off to some of my girlio's at Mastel's Foods, which is a health food place.

Deb Z was stoked when she found out that she was getting the lead role as Klecko's guinea pig, in fact maybe a little too enthused.......

"You know Klecko, if I were you, I'd add cranberries to these, not those cheap-crappy craisns....but cranberries."

Lesson #Last.......

Don't start adding ancillary ingredients until after you've mastered the "mother dough".

And if you get lucky and hit the bulls-eye on your first try.....

Well then just make certain that you are able to get it right a few more times before you steer your concept into a totally different flavor profile.

Alright.....off the soap box and back to work.

Klecko Out..............

Friday, October 28, 2011

Riding the Elephant - Hippie Cookies Recipe

Even with all the road construction thats going on, I decided to take Snelling to University Ave.

Sometimes Klecko takes the longer route, but I'd rather be in a car for 8 hours, traveling through an area that has a soul, then spending 1/2 the time driving over some vanquished highway.

So there I am, all by myself. I attempt a few calls from my Droid, but imagine that....nobody wants to talk to me LOL.

I'd talk to the Polish Christ, but I just hung out with him earlier in the day.

So now just ahead....I spy a big a** billboard that announces that the Shrine Circus is coming to town.

At that exact moment.....the world around my goes silent, and a mile wide smile forms on my oversized head.

I loved taking my kids to the circus.

KiKi is 7 years older than her little brother, so in some ways I was lucky. I got to take my kids to one of my favorite venues at 2 different periods in my life.

The one thing that remained constant however was that for 5 bucks, the Free Masons would let your kid ride the elephant.

Sue McGleno, Tydus and myself have never been chance takers with those kind of things. We like to move on certain ground.

So for the record, only my daughter was brave enough to ride on top of Dumbo.

The traffic is backed up now because 2 lanes have turned into 1. "That Guy" is blasting down the lane which is about to turn into a dead end,so now he's budging in front of a lot of us that have been waiting paitiently.

Most of these peeps are living in the immediate, and are ticked off at this selfish behavior. Most of these good citizens decide to show their disapproval by honking.

For the longest time I don't even realize this because all I can see is KiKi on that elephant.

I kinda started to get depressed because it was one of the singular best moments in my life.

She was excited at the time, so she didn't notice me watching her.

She was smiling, happy and content.

I've never forgotten that specific facial expression.

I guess it made me sad because like many people, I didn't want her to grow up.

I wanted her to march through the rest of her life ignorant to how fruitless humans can be.

Life with elephants.....that's the cats meow.

That's the course I wanted her to remain on.

But I guess all good things must come to an end, and the same can be said for the circus.

With a souvenir bag of pink cotton candy (for Sue McGleno) in one hand, and a monkey on a stick in the other, the 2 of us stumbled out of the Civic Center and back into reality.

While we headed towards our bus stop, all of a sudden we heard loud noises. There was mumbling and arguments escalting down the street.

A bunch of people had signs with clever catch phrases that were dissing "The Greatest Show on Earth" because they exploited animals.

I remember how annoyed I got with these folks.

In my mind it was easy for me to write them off as left wing fanaticals.

Why?

Because that thought aligned with my agenda.

I wanted to enjoy the circus w/o any baggage attached to it.

For a couple of years I never gave it a second thought, but then I saw several items on TV......and my head was forced to emerge from the sand.

You guys should know by now that I am not "Activist Guy". I think it's great so many are, but its never been my vibe.

But none the less, change is imminent, and each new generation is responsible to help the former one erase its ignorance.

The same can be said about food.

We have been talking a lot about cookies lately huh?

Many of the recipes have been old school, not just in technique, but in ingredient selection as well.

The following recipe is so freaking healthy (and tasty) that if you eat just one bite....you might live forever.

but before I post it, just let me remind you that the second you become set in your ways....whether it is the kitchen or your life, it becomes impossible for you to evolve from there.

I can't afford that....I have such a far way to go, sigh!



Mastel’s Honey Hemp Cookie

4 tbsp melted butter
¾ cup blue agave
1 tsp almond extract
1 ½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ cup K.A. Unbleached / Organic flour
1 cup hemp seed
1 cup flax seed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp B-Powder
1 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place your brown sugar, agave, almond extract and butter into your mixing bowl and blend them together.

Then in a separate bowl combine your flour, hemp, flax seed, salt and B-Powder. Use your hand to loosely incorporate the ingredients.

Take the “wet” bowl and pour it into the “dry” bowl and mix until the cookie batter is pulled together.

I have found that when this dough is optimal…….it is a little moist, let’s just say its tackier than a snickerdoodle dough.

When your dough is about 75% of the way mixed, add in your pecan pieces. If you put them in too soon….they will shred the cookies crumb wall.

This cookie was scooped golf ball size (and don’t push down on it – let the B-Powder direct its spread) and I’ll bet mine took 22-25 minutes to bake.

When they were removed from the oven, I left them on the sheet pans for over an hour.

Remember….this recipe lacks high gluten percentages, so it’s going to hand different.

P.S. On a second batch we swapped out the blue agave for honey. The honey version has a wider spread. It might have looked more uniformed, but the Agave version had superior texture.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MEOW-MEOW....SNICKERDOODLE recipe

When I steered Gracie,Romeo and P-Nut off of Hamline and onto Hartford, I should have known trouble was brewing.

It was the last week of the longest-coldest winter that I have ever experienced, and planted in the middle of my street was Reynolds, and he was flagging me to come over.

Now for the start of a story, that might not seem like much to you, but I know one thing about Reynolds that you don't.........

He doesn't like me, one bit!

Now he's not the kind of guy who would confess to that.

And afterall....Reynolds might be a good egg, but he is 1/2 my age and has spent all of his life in the world of academics.

In his world, everything is theory, everything is politically correct.

Our conflict started the previous summer at the neighborhood "Night Out" party, you know....the deal where you get together and brainstorm how to keep your community safe....one street at a time.

Well, Klecko isn't a huge fan of such things, after all...when my house got jacked and the thugs cleaned us out, it was a Thursday between 1-2:30 p.m.

Some of my "Watch Dog" neighbors informed my after the fact that the salt & pepper combo that carried out my 1000 inch plasma TV looked like they could have been my sons friends....as they loaded piles of gear into a truck parked in my alley.

So anyway, I'm at the neighborhood night out thing and Sue McGleno is telling a herd of women how some idiot that looked like Charles Manson came ringing our doorbell at 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

The rain was coming down in bucket loads, thunder was clapping like it does in a Vincent Price movie.

All 4 dogs were yelping at the top of their little lungs.

So I opened the door and I swear to the Polish Christ.......

Dude about 24ish to 27ish...maybe 5' 10" weighing in at 150#'s soaking wet (and he was literally)is standing on my stoop.

His hair was shoulder length, but it was sickly and stringy looking from the rain.

His wardrobe consisted of one pair of white gym shorts that were wet and matted to his body in a way that j-u-s-t seemed a little creepy to me.

The white shorts weren't progressive white shorts. They didn't have a Nike swoosh or the 3 Adidas bars.

Shoot...there wasn't even any detailed pin stripes or seperate color waist band.

Those shorts looked like they were ripped off from the Chariots of Fire movie set.

But the creepiest-creepiest-creepiest thing about this guy was revealed to me as he stood illuminated by my stoop light.

Soggy man was carrying an empty white Tupperware bowl in his left hand. It looked like it might have been a Cool Whip container.

When I opened the door, my dogs were going ape, and Charles Manson's little brother stood their shivering........

"Why are you ringing my doorbell at 1:30 in the morning?" I asked the guy.

Now Sue McGleno has to get involved and starts barking questions louder than the pack of pooches....

"Who is this guy, what does he want?"

I couldn't even aknowledge her, I felt like if I turned my head for even a split second, this guy would toss his wirey Gollum frame on me and slit my throat.

"I'm staying at some peoples house around here and I am locked out. I was..."

That was all I needed to hear.

"Hey idiot, I don't know you, look at yourself. You need to call the cops for help. if not... I will call them. If you are'nt gone in 5 seconds....I'm coming out!"

So dude left.

As Sue McGleno shared this story, the neighborhood hens laughed and voiced their surprise that I didn't terminate the freak.

Thats when Reynolds wife spoke up and said.....

"He's our friend,he was watching our house and he got locked out and was coming to you for help."

So I kinda laugh and explained that at 1:30 when you are naked, with wet serial killer hair, 8th grade gym trunks and a plastic Tupperware bowl, the "Regular Guy" rule declares that somebody skull crushes you.

So now Reynolds wife is pissed and raises her voice in defense of the Samaritan way.

I told her to grow up or move back to Oz.

So now Reynolds hears this conflict and comes over to investigate.

When he got a grasp on the conversations topic, he was put in an awkward position.

His wife was really upset and wanted immediate justice cloaked over my head, with the noose pulled tight.

Reynolds can't bench more than 100#'s.

Now I felt bad for the position he was in, but I didn't pull back. I reiterated that when you jepordize a families security.....you have to expect the hammer.

So anyways, that's why Reynold's thinks I'm a jerk.

He disagrees whole hearted with my stance, but none the less, I digress.

There he stood almost knee deep in the blanket of snow that had recently covered Hartford Ave.

"MEOW......MEOWWWWWWW" goes a pussy cat that I can't seem to place on my radar.

"MEOW-MEOW.......MEOWWWWWWWWWWWWW!"

Reynold points up towards the bare tree tops that create a frame which serves as a foilage canopy during warmer moments.

"That cat has been up there since 9 O'Clock last night...thats 14 hours ago. It's afraid to come down. He's simply too far up."

Meow.....Meow......Meow continued this cat in a perfect rythem.

When I asked whose cat it was, Reynolds told be that it's name was Oscar, and he lived in the big blue house that stood behind this huge boulevard oak where the cat was trapped.

Oscar was so high up that even when we leaned a fully extended extention ladder, this trapped kitty was still 20 some feet over outstretched arms.

After that attempt was foiled, I rang the doorbell of this blue house and the women said she had placed some calls.......

"Yeah....I called the fire department, but they said that they don't rescue cats from trees. That was just a misconception. But I've put a few calls into some of my friends. We'll get him down from there."

7p.m. - 9:28 p.m. - 11:41 p.m.......

Each time I went outside in hopes of finding a vacant tree......

Meowwwwwww - Meowwwwwww - Meowwwwwww.

And it was really-really cold.

That poor cat had now been up on that narrow limb in below freezing conditions for 28+ hours. Klecko was livid.

So I went to Facebook and asked Klecko Nation to give me a list of professional "I get cats out of tree services."

Within minutes, my L.A.B. Rat's had produced 1/2 dozen qualified people.

So many of us on Hartford Avenue didn't sleep well that night. In fact when I went out before sunrise there was 6 or 7 people standing around.

By the time the sun did come out, half the neighborhood was, oh I don't know....unofficialy standing in our attempt at a makeshift vidual.

Dr. I hate my Neighbors wife was out there, the stripper that calls herself an exotic dancer...her kids camped out at the foot of the tree.

It was like we were all waiting for those Ecuadorian minors to be released from the bowls of the earth.

Everybody was angry, everybody was dumbfounded on how these new neighbors could let that cat suffer.

Reynolds exclaimed......

"A life is a life. This is unacceptable!"

For the first time since Reynolds moved into the hood, we finally agreed on something.

It kinda felt odd....but good.

So now I got brave and marched onto the porch of the blue house, rang the door bell and then pounded on the door.

It took several minutes, but finally the woman (and her husband who wasn't around the previous day) answered still dressed in their pajamas.

When they looked out onto their lawn and saw more than a dozen people on the snowbanks....they seemed befuddled and surprised.

Before they had a chance to comment, I handed them an envelope and explained.......

"Inside are a bunch of people who are capable of getting your cat out of this tree. I am off to Iowa, but I will be back in 6 hours, I've just gotta tell you on behalf of the neighborhood. it would be best for all concerned if that cat was down before I get back.

If for whatever reason you guys are strapped for cash, I will pay the bill."

Then others echoed that they would help out financially as well.

I think the new people were touched.

But Klecko was still annoyed.

When I got back from my Iowa jaunt...sure enough, Oscar was down.

Dude from the blue house called the first guy on the list. The guy was some kind of tree specialist, and he drove 50 some miles through deep snow.

He put spikes on his feet, climbed the tree as quick as a monkey, and then baited Oscar with a handful of kibble.

I wasn't there, but from what I heard, Oscar didn't put up a fight at all.

He was happy to be saved.

When the people from the blue house asked what they owed the tree climber for his good deed, the guy said.....

"I'm just glad Oscar is safe. I'm not worried about money. give me what you want."

Urban legend states the the people of the blue house splashed a "Hundy" on him.

Later that evening my doorbell rang, and the woman from the blue house came over all puppy dog eyed.......

"I feel bad about everybody worrying, that's why I decided to bake you cookies for all the effort and care you put in, but then one of the neighbors said you were like the worlds best baker or something, so I baked you these Snickerdoodles, but they aren't any good."

she was right, they sucked.....but I couldn't have cared less. It was the thought that counts, and the neighborhood slept well that night.

SNICKERDOODLES -

3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs (room temp)
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon


Directions:

Fire up your oven to 350°F.2

Next mix your butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs together.

Now you'll want to combine your "AP" flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.

Now blend the dry ingredients into butter mixture.

While preparing the coating mixture you can chill your dough for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.

And then you should mix 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 teaspoons of cinnamon in a small bowl.

Finally, scoop the dough balls and roll them into the sugar / cinnamon mixture and place on cookie sheets (w/o sides) covered with parchment papers.

Bake them until they are golden brown. This usually takes 8-10 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cornhuskers Football and Red Velvet Cookies

Dateline Yesterday.

Danny Klecko is sitting in the back of the Joe Sensors sport bar in Roseville.

If you are not from my native land, or follow NFL football, I guess it wouldn't kill me to let you know that back in the day.....Joe played football for our home town Vikings squad.

I took my family here because every time the Nebraska Cornhuskers play, marching band members from their alumni bring their instruments down to the pub and play fight songs, or standards from decades past.

Marching band people all have that same look, have you ever noticed it? These people are always nice, they have a happy demeanor, and most of the time they go to work to pay their bills.....but deep down, I think they are only content when they play twisted metallic instruments.

O-M-G- I must confess, and even at the risk of losing street cred points,I never knew how bad a** the piccolo was.

I saw bandage dude playing it a lot in the pictures during the Bicentennial, but I'm pretty sure I never saw a piccolo sole live.

During a cover of Neil Diamonds "Sweet Caroline" two women cut loose during that part when the crowd screamed "Bah-Bah-Bah....So Good - So Good" and even my son in law - J.R. looked at me and commented how cool the mini flute looking thing was.

I've always thought it was cool when strangers in a strange land form their own pocket. I've heard about Bars supporting concepts that weren't indigenous, but I had never been to one.

Ever since my daughter has left us, and her home state to go to Nebraska, I have noticed that sometimes she fights hard to keep her identity.

That's OK, I get that, but Big Papi has had to remind her on a couple occasions....

"When in Rome....."

The bottom line is there is absolutely no shame in converting, or switching teams when the new people you are with love you.

This is the fortune of KiKi, the family that she married into are wonderful, I think they might be weirder than us LOL.

So even though its only 10:38 a.m., all the peeps start drinking "Red Beer" a tradition that all Huskers that aren't on a 12 step system will adhere to.

"When in Rome........"

So I topple a couple and as Kiki, J.R. and me are sitting around the table, KiKi declares........

"I like being in your Blog dad, you can actually write huh?"

The thought of this somewhat surprise her.

"Make sure on your next post you talk about the time Adam & Gordy threw that snow ball at Beanie."

One thing I have learned over the years is that sometimes daughters speak directly with their fathers. Often times when they pass their mid 20's they have too.

They realize that their intelligence has surpassed that of the barbarian that has brought them into this world.

I could be wrong, and I didn't ask.....but I think part of the reason she wanted me to repeat this story to you and her husband (who was now downing a Monster Bomb) was because she wanted him to hear how I prioritized her (my daughter) above my own safety or freedom.

The story happened when she was in Kindergarten, I picked her and her best friend Beanie up from school on a cold winter afternoon. Beanie was in her class and often joined us on our daily walks back to the Kleckocastle.

Then...out of nowhere, Adam and Gordy, the notorious 4th grade twin brothers jumped from their position of stealth and drilled Beanie point blank in the face with an ice ball.

Beanie shrieked.

Adam and Gordy had a father who was a middle and played drums in a band that had their better years behind them.

The mom use to stop me on the street to bum a smoke and assure me that her husband wasn't "Doing It" with the tons of groupies that she assured me followed him.

And not just at gigs either.

They wanted to "Do It" at the grocery store, the Library, anywhere that infidelity would allow itself.

But....and get this....."Garth would have nothing to do with it....Garth - LOL"

So while these parents were doing the things that they did, Adam and Gordy had grown quite a reputation for burning down garages, taking items out of cars at night, tagging homes and garages.

All the annoying things punks do that will put them in trouble, but w/o getting incarcerated.

So Beanies shrieking, blood sprays out of her nose....."BOOM"

So does Klecko bother to check on here.....to my shame,no.

I chased those little turds, and I must admit looking back, they were wily opponents.

But I ended up steering Adam into a fenced yard, much like you would do with cattle.

When he realized he was trapped, he actually dropped to his knees like a professional wrestler does on television, you've seen it....they plead for mercy that they haven't earned.

I showed no mercy however. Instead I picked the kid up by the the neck and marched him down the street to his house.

His brother vanished, but KiKi and the bleeding Beanie did their best to stay up with me, I guess I was kinda pissed and moving with purpose.

So when I got to the house, and I'm not proud of this....bulls***, actually I am.

I didn't ring the doorbell, or bother to knock....I kicked the door in. Off the hinges. One Kick.

And as I did this, the little drummer boy and his wife were sitting on the couch.

They didn't have time to be frightened, they were still in shock from their door laying on the mudroom floor.

So I marched in and said something like.......

"Listen A-Holes, ask your kid how comfortable it is getting toted around by the neck. If I see either of your kids within 50 yards of my house or my daughter...I'm coming back and taking it out on both of you."

The wife let gravity pull her jaw down, I'm pretty sure she was going to talk smack, but Garth wisely told her to stop.

As the years went by, both of their kids got sent away, but never once did they approach my daughter or any of her friends.

If I've said it once, I've said it a billion times.

"Klecko is not his children's friend......he is their father."

Now the Cornhusker Alumni bus pulls up, and as we headed crosstown to watch their squad toy with the hometown Gophers......

I just kinda shook my head at some of the stuff I did back when I was raising my kids.

I'll admit I was certifiably insane, but now when I look at how wonderful my daughter has turned out....I gotta think that the Polish Angels are pleased with me.

I guess I'll find out for sure one day.

In tribute to the Cornhuskers....GO BIG RED, we're going to talk about red velvet, and red velvet cookies.

In the last couple of year red velvet is topping the charts again.

Throughout the years, executing this recipe was quite standard. Now days people whine because the people making it will use large volumes of red dye.

It didn't use to be like that.

Back in the day we used to use beets, but now days when people try to do this, they have a tough time obtaining the sharp red color.

So whats changed over the years?

Well, often times you'd get your red "shade" from the cocoa mixing with your leavening agent, but guess what?

The cocoa you get today is processed. Usually when you see "Dutch - or processed" it is going to act strange around B-Powder or B-Soda.

When you go with the natural (non processed which is sold at every CO OP and on line) you should get a nice shade of red.

I', going to give you a "lead Pipe" recipe that is certain to work, I know some of you L.A.B. Rats will feel inclined to play with the fat and convert it to 100% butter (sigh).....OK, but just try it Big Papi's way once.

And one other tip.....

I agree that a buttload of dye is gross, but even though my recipe can give you great color.....I wouldn't mind if you tricked a couple red dye drops in when I wasn't looking...but that's up to you.

Cookies:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter unsalted
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup cooked beet puree
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey
2 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp B-Powder
1 tsp salt

Frosting:
1 8 oz cream cheese
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
a few drops red food coloring (c'mon....don't be so uptight)


Cream your Sugar, Butter and Shortening.

Then add your Beets, Honey and V-Extract.

Next Flour, B-Powder and Salt.

Then make a divot in the Flour and slowly place your Cocoa in. If you dump it too hard or fast...you will have a brown cloud.

As you stir this together, it may not be your final color, remember the cocoa and B-Powder will affect that as the chemicals interact.

Then when it's mixed, do the old preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake these guys on cookie sheets w/o side walls until they are done.

Standard size is about 10 minutes.

If you want to add that frosting....I like to do mine when they have cooled. If you put it on while the cookie is still warm, there is simply too much wet mass.

The cookie can get gooey, oh yeah.....keep a 2 inch gap between cookies. These guys spread pretty good.

I'll want a full report.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Best Twin Cities Bakers (and Bakeries) of 2012

OK Guys....the following in a sneak peek of my Food Service News column. You don't have to live in Minnesota to find the value in this publication. If you get a couple minutes you might want to go online and check out their scene.

And when you do....head straight to Mike Mitchelson's column, he is the "secret voice" that tilts the Twin Cities commercial food scene.

3-2-1 and.....................................

Food Service News

2012’s Essential Twin Cities Bakers

Can you believe that it’s already that time of the year again?

Time to discuss who next year’s relevant Twin Town bakers will be.

Before I start naming names, and hand over my scepter of approval, I should point out a trend shift that you might need to prepare for.
As we speak, donuts are becoming the new “cup cake.”

Bakers across the metro are finding unique ways to restore this comfort food whose sales numbers have suffered a severe drought over the last decade.

The following people are not ranked in any particular order. Let’s just say that the following concepts all merit equal attention.
So sit back, relax….and let Klecko take you into the future.

Beth Wright / Beth and the Biscuit - Personal Chef Service

It simply doesn’t make sense to me. I live in a progressive city that offers a plethora of international culinary concepts, but if I start getting an itch for down home southern cooking, there just aren’t any viable options.

That is till now.

Recently I met Beth Wright at a local food event and within moments I realized that I had found the human equivalent of a 4 leaf clover.

At first I had a hard time focusing on her products because I had become enthralled with her accent that was rooted in North Carolina.

I’m telling you, if I were a little more tech savvy, I’d find a way to hook her voice into my GPS system so I could hear it every day.

But don’t sell this woman short and focus your full attention on her southern charm. Go to her “Beth and the Biscuit Personal Chef Services” Facebook page and prepare to receive a firsthand education on biscuits, buttermilk, grits, corn meal and corn bread.

We are nothing short of blessed to have this woman in our community.
Let’s make sure we make her feel welcome.

Lisa Clark / Mojo Monkey Donuts –

What happens when you take an employee from Breadsmith and place them into a Yahtzee cup with occasional culinary trips to Seattle?

You get a brand new donut culture.

Capitol City rejoice, there’s a new donut shop on West 7th that has a monkey on its door and innovation in its kitchen.

Just yesterday I went in and snooped around and I have to tell you….I think I found heaven.

Key Lime Bismarks, Banana Pecan Fritters and traditional glazed donuts that make Krispy Kreme’s look savage.

The list goes on and on, but if its handcrafted delights you are after, this is the place for sure.

I mentioned to Lisa how impressive her branding and marketing for this flagship concept was, and with full humility she just smiled and explained that all she has to do was follow the suggestions of her children.

I’ve got a feeling about this place……it’s going to be around for a long-long time.

Kim Ode & Lee Svitak Dean / Baking CentralKim Ode & Lee Svitak Dean / Baking Central

OK, these ladies from the StarTribune might not work in a bakery, but none the less, their commitment to the topic surpasses most.

Today newspapers have to become “value added” if they are going to remain competitive.

But that’s not the only reason Dean & Ode created the “Baking Central” video series.

Another key reason for launching this project was to help remove the intimidation that all too often accompanies this noble art form.
Don’t take my word for it, just go down to the news room and check out the Emmy and National Journalism award that this series has raked in.

Bill Hanisch / Hanisch Bakery & Coffee Shop

For the first time ever, I’m going to add a bakery that’s not located in the metro. Why would I do this?

Because in addition to having the greatest range of any “Retail Baker” in the state; Bill has transformed this “Ma & Pa Shop” into one of Red Wing’s top destination spots.

Hanisch predicted the resurrection of donuts way before anyone else, and that’s why he has mastered recipes that include Maple Bacon, P.B.J., Butterfinger and at least a dozen other flavors.

This place is on course to go big time, so if I were you, I’d head over immediately so years down the road you can brag that you hung with Billy before he hit rock star status.

David S. Cargo / Baking Instructor

I can verify that David S. Cargo is one of the brightest minds in baking. I’ve hired him. Several years back he came into my shop and launched our successful ciabatta line.

Over the years David has worked the commercial side of the coin, but more recently he has gone a little “Bohemian” and now instructs a myriad of baking classes at some of the most interesting venues our city has to offer.

David has a knack determining the strength of your skill set, and then giving you the tools that will best suit your needs.

So pick your poison, do you want to learn how to make cinnamon rolls, sourdough or maybe construct an outdoor brick oven?

Whatever you choose, you’re going to get more than you paid for.

I guarantee it.

David S. Cargo / (651) 699 -7676


John Cardenas / Donuts Deluxe

If you ever pass through Vadnais Heights you’ll want to stop at the Donuts Deluxe.

When you do, I’ll make a couple bets with you.

#1 – You’ll never find a cleaner bakery on earth. Cardenas and his crew keep their shop immaculate.

#2 – Their Apple Fritter signature piece may be the most delicious baked good you will ever taste!


James Hanson / Chez Arnaud

It might be a little too early in his career to designate him as the cities premiere bread baker, but let me phrase it like this. If I was going to invest any of my own personal wealth into just one baker, I’d be backing James Hanson without a doubt.

In an industry that often uses ego to mirror insecurity, it’s so refreshing to see somebody have success while remaining humble.

I first met James awhile back at a King Arthur sponsored bread tutorial. While many business owners and production managers sat silently, as if they had all the answers, James asked questions.

He was “that guy” who ran up to assist the instructor the second a volunteer was requested.

During a brief intermission Hanson confessed that he had to work twice as hard since he didn’t grow up in a baking community like many of the others who were in attendance.

In fact, he spent several years focusing on the printing trade.
But hard work paid off.

On Saturday, July 16th 2011, Hanson represented the Chez Arnaud Bakery at the annual French Alliance of the Twin Cities – Bastille Day Baguette Competition.

James was going up against a large number of established bakers that had the advantage of past participation in this event.
It didn’t matter……Hanson brought home the gold.

When I asked if he got a trophy or medal, he tried to contain his joy……
“Nah, they gave us a really nice plaque. It’s hanging at our new White Bear location.”

In closing, I guess I’m gonna change my mind and say it…..

In Klecko’s opinion, James Hanson is the Twin Cities go to bread guy.

I’d be curious to know how my list lines up with yours….shout at me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fathers-Daughters Cornhusker Football & Vanilla Cookie Recipes

Several months ago I dropped a mortgage payment on 3 tickets to the Minnesota Gophers / Nebrasks Cornhuskers tilt that will be taking place this Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

When Sue McGleno asked how much the tickets were, I considered lying, but I didn't.

I should have.

It's not like she totally nagged me about it, but she pointed out that the investmest was preposterous.

I don't think so however.

The way I look at it, and I mean this in complete respect, Nebraska doesn't have the same sports entertainment that we do here in the TC's.

All they have is Cornhusker sports, and you know....I kinda think thats cool. Cornhusker Football is like a religion down there, People plan the events of their life around it.

In my city, there are too many options in my opinion. The commitment to a team gets deluded.

So anyways, I just figure that if a guy is going to watch after my daughter (and that's not meant in sexist terms, I know it goes both ways...so don't even start)the least I can do is take him to a game where he can watch God's favorite team.....GO BIG RED!

But the bottom line is when I am dead, I want my daughter to know in no uncertain terms how I feel/felt about her.

Sue McGleno says you can't buy love, but I'm not so certain.

I realize I am daft, but sometimes I think people appreciate gestures where they know some sacrifice is being made.

Situations where their needs were put ahead of your own.

Sue McGleno shrugs, rolls her eyes and asks if I really think KiKi will even remember this game in 20 years.

Klecko responded by sharing a story that happened to him recently.

A couple weeks ago I went to the Lexington which touts a reputation as being one of the premiere fine dining restaurants in Saint Paul.

My dinner dates were Saint Paul poet laureate Carol Connolly and one of my newer "inner circle" friends Dara Syrkin. when I say newer, I have known her for a couple years, but it takes a long time for any of us to become a V.I.P. in somebodys life.

It takes more than commitment, it takes a history of commitment.

The thing I love about "D" is that she has the most unique laugh in the world, but in addition to that.....I love to see what she is going to wear to events.

I mean on one high brow evening when I met up with her (and it was a summer thing) she was wearing a longer (but not long) skirt that was blue & white and almost copped that...what are those Dutch plates called? The blue & white ones....Delft?

Yeah she copped a Delft vibe, for sure.

If that wasn't interesting enough, she accessorized it with black motor cycle boots.

It so worked.

I think my street cred went up 80 points that night, but back to the Lexington. almost always I am the first to arrive, but tonight both my dates beat me. Dara was clad in a Jackie "O" ensamble that was a sporting shade of Egg Plant. The sheen of black and purple was amazing.

Speaking of black, Carol Connolly always wears it. I mean always.

Carol Connolly wears black more often than Johnny Cash did.

So while the 3 of us chatted, dined and gossiped. Carol asked what was new with this Blog and I told her how Season #3 started and my thread of interest that i was going to weave through recipes was how daughters communicated with their fathers.

She smiled, and smiled, until I broke the silence and demanded that she give a little insight to her family history....that is if she wanted to.

I didn't have a tape recorder, and I didnt take notes, but if you want to trust my sketchy memory, I'll do my best to reenact the poet laureates response........

"Oh-my goodness - first off, I lost my father way to soon. I was 25 years old, and my twins were just 10 months. My mother had a heart attack and my father was driving her to the hospital.
When they were at a stop light, my father slumped over from a heart attack as well and passed away right there on the spot.
My mother was able to flag down a police officer who proceeded to take her to a hospital, but she passed too within a 1/2 hour.
My father was a big man, he was large like you Klecko (now Carol's face starts beaming) and he was so kind to us kids, but sometimes he would say the craziest things that I still laugh about today.
Once he told my little brother that if he didn't stop misbehaving, he was going to clock him in head and this would result in him bouncing down the street for so far and so long that he would die of starvation."

And now I see that Carol's glance has turned to the past. That made me smile. She continued......

"We never heard our parents use foul language, but I remember once he was moving a dresser down a starwell and he lost his grip. As the dresser tumbled end over end....my father actually laughed and said - LET THAT SON OF A BITCH GO, and us children couldn't believe it. We giggled all day."

As Carol finished reminiscing I noticed a tear shoot out of her eye, and then another.

Crazy, when you bring up topics that make people cry, they are usually considered bad, or inappropriate (in guy terms at least), but as Carol slid her finger underneath her eye glasses to wipe the moisture away...I was glad I did.

All I could think of is how much I hope one day my daughter will love me that much. Enough to cry at the Lexington and not even care.

At this point server dude strolls up and offers dessert, if you ever wanted an inside tip on how to impress Capitol Cities #1 poet, just order her vanilla Ice Cream, it's all she desires.

Vanilla / Orange Cookies

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 egg (room temp)
1 teaspoon orange flower water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Alright-Alright, you know the drill.....Start by creaming your butter, shortening and sugar.

Next add milk, egg, orange flower water and vanilla extract.

Then we'll put in our flour, B-Powder and salt.

Mix it together until pliable and scoop in onto sheet pans covered with parchment paper.

Remember....sheet pans w/o sides work better.

When I scoop my cookies (and I do love to use authentic cookie scoops)I never like to press the cookie mound down. I have found that when they spread on their own they turn out better.

Next you'll place them into the oven that was preheated to 350 degrees and bake them until their done, but don't pull a "Sue McGleno" and leave them on the cookie sheet...they will continue baking and will burn.

So just give them a couple minutes to set up and transfer them to a cooling rack.

If you are not familiar with orange flower water, the stuff is aces. Kim Ode swears by it.

Adding orange flower water not only adds some s-e-x-y to your flavor profile, but it also adds a total different texture, which in turn creates a pleasant mouth feel.

If you can't find it at the store.....I just have one word......

INTERNET!

Now go cry about your fathers and get baking.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Case You Missed the Greatest Night of my Life......

Some of the soundest advise I have ever received came from my writing mentor Mike Finley.

He advised me........

"If you want people to hate you,invite them to your poetry reading!"

OK-OK, I realize that this Blogsite is geared towards "All Things Baking", but bare with me just one time.

Throughout my entire life I have been in a position where I have been in service to others.

While you were enjoying Christmas with your family during the 80's 90's and today....Klecko was preparing bread for your FAMILIES following morning.

While you and your clan were riding boogey boards that were tied behind a fat pontoon boat....Klecko was teaching your Grandson how to hit a curve ball at Little League.

I love my life, and I am thrilled at the opportunities that I've had, but yesterday, I swear to Polish Christ that I had a level 10 epiphany.

When I got up yesterday and hopped into the bread truck, I don't know why, but I went on an exploration in my mind.

Through my jaunt to work, I strolled through my mental warehouse and opened each and every crate that said.......

GREATEST MOMENTS OF KLECKO'S LIFE

So on the first crate I take a crowbar, remove the lid and inside the contents were......

KIKI'S WEDDING DAY

Further down the aisle I stumbled into other boxes that were filled with other glorious moments........

KIKI'S COLLEGE GRADUATION and TYDAS LEADS HIS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM TO CITY CHAMPIONSHIP

So now I lean back in my bread truck cockpit and I began to get nervous. I was pretty sure I might have an idea of what was in store for me around the corner in Aisle #8.

Sure enough, there it was. A pyramid of crates, 10.956 to be exact. I didn't have time to open all of them, but I did break into a random few.....

NIGHT #2467 WITH SUE McGLENO, NIGHT #8441 WITH SUE McGLENO.....

You get the point.

So now it hits me....."BOOM FRICKEN BOOM" like a bag of bricks.

Every single "Greatest Moment" of my life has had one thing in common.

I was never the person of focus.

For whatever reason, the moments that have meant the most have always been when I have seen those that I love happy.

So I pull into work and the reality of the day is at hand.....after a long time of secretly hoping....I was going to get to get my shot at reading poems at the University Club, which in my opinion is the Twin Towns equivalence to the literary Taj Mahal.

Funny, when I coveted this dream in secret, it was always exciting.

But yesterday I felt like barfing, and maybe for the first time in a long time, I began to regret pursuing a goal. It's so much easier to sit on the side lines and blend in.

At this point I started to get emotional and weird in my head, and I didn't like that feeling, so I flashed back to my son and remembered how prior the the biggest moments in his life, he would just stand in the middle of the kitchen with his Dre Beat's on and listen to music for 12 hours before he had to leave for the game.

The kid defied time.

So I did that as well. I just went into the shop and made pretzel bread.

I figured I would make 3-4 dozen loaves and put them out on the table at the reading and peeps could plunk down donations that would go to the host's favorite cause.

But when I was done, it was only 1 p.m., I still had 6 1/2 hours left to burn, and was petrified by that.

I don't do it often, but I left work early and went home.

The house was empty, Sue McGleno was en route from Omaha, so I sat on the couch with 4 dogs and watched the clock, tick and tock.

Then I fell asleep, for 2 1/2 consecutive hours. That doesn't even happen to me at night.

Following my son's example, I decided I would be the first person at the event. So back into the bread truck and off we go.

As mentioned in previous posts, the reading room at the University Club reminds me of the belly of a pirate ship. In addition to the obvious beauty, if you stand in this space alone (and being alone scares me) you can feel the ghosts.

Not ghosts of people as much as ghosts of events.

The greatest poets of my homeland have all delivered their best shot right here from the spot I was standing on.

So after placing the pretzel breads on a table I stood in the middle of the room all by myself.

1/2 of me was amped, but the other 1/2 was terrified.

So people start trickling in and I did my best to greet the guests I had invited, but I did feel awkward, after all this might have been the first time (other than a wedding) where I wore a tie.

Then our host and emcee, Saint Paul's poet laureate Carol Connolly approaches me, wishes me good luck and hands me a roster that will tell the presenters what order they will go in.

MARTIN KIHN
LINDA BACK McKAY
KLECKO
CARY WATERMAN
GREG WATSON
FREYA MANFRED

Drawing the 3 slot isn't so bad. Going first can sometimes be lame, and if I go last, I never get to enjoy the other readers because I'm always a little nervous and it's hard for me to relax.

So Martin Kihn gets the show rolling by informing us.......

"Hi.....I'm Matrin.......and I am a alcoholic."

Everybody laughed, including himself, but then he informed us that he really was, and he had written a book about going through the 12 step program while getting a dog who simultaneously was going through a 10 step program at obedience school.

He wrote a book about this and SHOWTIME liked it and decided to do a series about it.

Martin has got to easily be 6 feet tall. He is thin, handsome....and white.

So who does Hollywood cast to play a guy like that?

Easy.....Don Cheadle! LOL

Martin did a great job opening the show, however....the presenters were told firmly to not exceed 10 minutes, dude went well over 20.

So he hands off to the next poet, and I guess that's where my black out starts. In less that 24 hours I am sad to report that I couldn't pick her out of a police line up if world peace depended on it.

Next thing I know, my bio was being read and there I was walking from the back of the room, up the aisle, and behind a podium that contained the worlds shortest microphone stand.

I was forced to hunch over.

I planned on strictly reading, and not adding any filler or banter, but Martin went sooo long, that I felt if I did a 8-9-10 minute set, I might come off as weak.

Sometimes in "The Show", game plans get shifted.

"Hello, my name is Klecko. I'll be honest....I kinda feel sick right now, like the day my daughter got married. Actually I have been nervouse all day so I spent the first 1/2 of the day baking you guys that pretzel bread over there.

Then I spent the second 1/2 of the day on the internet trying to figure out how to tie this tie."

The crowd cheered until I continued......

"Yeah, if you ever have that problem, Brooks Brothers has a good web site that shows you how to make one of these Windsor knots. Anyways, tonight I'm going to read 3 loves poems, and then I am going to close with something special. By the way, being that 1/2 of you guys in the audience are my friends, that means 1/2 of the audience doesn't know how to conduct themselves at a literary event. At the end of each poem I will say "Thank You" and your job is to applaud frantically."

Poem # 1

I LOVE YOU JANE GOODALL -

I WOULD PAY TO SHARE YOUR SILENCE
WHILE BUGS WOULD CRAWL ON ME
SECRETLY A CHIMP OT TWO WILL SURFACE

WE WOULD SIT ON BEDS OF LEAVES
OR MAYBE EMPTY SCOTCH CASES
I'M TOLD THAT YOU ARE PARTIAL TO FAMOUS GROUSE

IF THE JUNGLE REMAINED SILENT
AND WE WERE LEFT TO OUR OWN DEVICES
MAYBE THAT WOULDN'T BE SO BAD

WE COULD CLIMB INTO YOUR TREE HOUSE
AND YOU WOULD MAKE US OOLONG TEA
WHILE I TELL YOU - HOW BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE

THANK YOU"

So now people responded with enthusiasm, and I started to feel a little better.

"Poem #2

13 YEARS OLD -

TOM THUMB CLOSES AT 11 P.M.
AT 11:06 A BONNEVILLE PULLS UP
AND TWO NUNS POP OUT AND BUM RUSH THE DOOR

THEY ARE IN NEED OF CIGARETTES
BUT THE CASHIER MUST BE A LUTHERAN
BECAUSE SHE REFUSED TO ANSWER THE LADIES PRAYERS

SO THE BRIDES OF CHRIST ARE IN A BLACK MOOD
AND PUSH PAST ME AND A FRIEND
WHO HAVE SPENT MOST OF JULY IN THIS PARKING LOT

EXCUSE ME SISTER - I CALLED OUT
WOULD YOU LIKE A MARLBORO RED
I LIT IT FOR HER AS SHE PULLED BACK HER WIMPLE

EXPOSING HER HAIR AND CLOSING HER EYES
AND WHEN THAT SMOKE SHOT DOWN THE PIPE
THE HOLY SPIRIT GAVE ME REASON TO KNOW

FOR THE FIRST TIME....I WAS ABSOLVED

THANK YOU."

And now people were more than gracious with their applause. I know people like Nun poems right LOL? But I'm not sure I expected this kind of response. But either way....it didn't matter anymore.

I had hit my groove and now I think I had every ounce of KLECKO CONFIDENCE restored.

For the briefest of brief seconds, I took a mili second to realize that I was in one of those life moments that transcend time. Then it occurred to me how quick things like that get rusted and dented, so I didn't try to capture it....I just recognized its importance and moved on to my 3rd and final love poem.

"POEM #3

LIQUOR STORE PARKING LOT -

HULA GIRL - HULA GIRL
DANCE BENEATH THE RAIN DROPS
I'M PRETTY SURE MY WINDSHIELD WILL KEEP YOU DRY

LEFT/RIGHT - LEFT/RIGHT
YOUR HIPS GYRATE WITH FLUIDITY
AS IF YOUR BALANCE WAS DETERMINED ON A SPRING

TICK-TOCK - TICK TOCK
THE CLOUDS ECLIPSE THE MOON
BUT IT'S STILL ENGAGING WHEN YOU DANCE IN THE NEON

HULA GIRL - HULA GIRL
I AM FEARFUL OUR TRYST MUST END
MY GIRLFRIEND IS HEADED TOWARDS THE CAR
AND SHE HAS A BOTTLE OF TANQUERAY

THANK YOU".

So yeah....hip hip hooray and all that jazz, but this time I cut the accolades short.

"Now ladies and gentleman, it is my pleasure to announce that for my final poem, I will be joined by Saint Paul's own rebel poet Mike Finley."

And this part right here was w/o a doubt the coolest part of one of the best nights in my life.

For me, Mike Finley is like Babe Ruth.

Can you imagine going to the batting cages for 5 years and getting hitting lessons from the Bambino, and then one day, years later you get penciled in the same batting line up as him.....at the World Series.

Mike Finley has handed me the keys to the vault I value the most.

He's taken the time and patience to instruct me, aim and launch me.

I think the part that secretly nerved me so hard all day was knowing that if I bombed.....it wouldn't destroy his career, but when you are a cities token "Rebel Poet" I imagine you like to keep casualties to a minimum.

So now as he walks up the aisle, I can see the intrigue in the eyes of the audience. Especially those from the literary community.

What was this unique tandem up to?

I will never come close to writing the following as cool as it really happened, but just let me paraphrase it, and if you dial it up 500%...you just might get a sniff......

This is Finley talking in a low stoic voice now...........

"Greetings friends, it is an honor to be with you here tonight as I celebrate the accomplishments of my protege, but be forewarned...if you like what you see, and want a piece of him, you'll have to come through me.

Tonight as we celebrate love, I think it is important that we visit the past and explore the works of a poet that we are all familiar with. This poet is no longer with us, but his message remains in all of us, not just in words, but with rhythms as well.

It is true that he was skewed different, but you all love his message and would be lost if his work was....(pause)....NEVERMORE."

As you can imagine, everybody in the house was set up for some kind of Edger Allen Poe tribute, but in fact.....We read Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Without the music, the lyrics weren't that obvious, I started off doing MJ's lines, and Finley would conclude with the portion that Vincent Price did.

The response of happiness was like watching a pile of pop corn kernels exploding in a kettle. They don't do this in unison do they?

So on the 2nd or 3rd line, a couple people got it and smirked, at the end of the first paragraph several others roared. By the time I hit the chorus, most of the house understood the message, so when I relinquished the stage for my mentor to tie things up with the Vincent Price epilogue......people LOVED IT.

Then we said thank you, and turned to each other and nodded, shook hands, and then turned to the crowd and bowed.

Of the 1000 times I have been on a stage, for a dozen reasons. This was the funnest moment I ever had.

In a million years I would have never-ever guessed that reading something from the Michael Jackson catalog would be a lifetime highlight.

But if I've learned one thing in life....

If there's somewhere you want to go, surround yourself with people who will get you there.

Last night my friend Mr. Finley did that.

In closing, what can I say but thank you to all of you who were able to come. It meant very much to me that you stood at the finish line of one of my biggest emotional rollercoaster days in my life.

Thanks.

Sincerely.....the Last American Baker.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kim Ode - Nazi's and the King of Norway

Did I ever tell you guys about bread club?

About 10 years ago, I started this Saint Paul Bread Club thing where people come into my production space and I teach them to bake.....for free.

When I originally launched the concept, I envisioned many of my commercial baking colleagues pitching in as well, but the one question most of them asked was...

"If we don't charge people money, what's the point"?

Sigh........

Anyways, yesterday the theme was sourdough.

So 37 enthusiasts pile into the bakery around 10:30 a.m. and the lot of us mixed, scaled, proofed and baked 3 pound sourdough rye rounds.

As some of you know, I've been working a lot with Kvass, and yesterday I used it as the water (or liquid base) of our 75 pound dough.

As the club members pushed our works of art into the proof box, I asked them to gather around before we split into informal groups.

Our Kvass had fermented for 5 days and everybody could smell the booze like quality it produced. You might of thought we were working at some covert Kentucky moonshine shack.

"So hows all that booze going to affect our products peeps" I asked them.

Most of the members realized that the alcohol created from fermentation would work against the yeast.

"How about the flour y'all, are we going to have to compensate for that"?

Now things became a little quiet, but Klecko just jumped back onto his soap box.

"Most of the wheat that the Euro's use is low protein. That's why I used a Patent flour, it is more similar to what the French and Italians use. Most of it is Canadian grown, but in addition to that, 60% of our flour is the low protein Patent, but the remainder of the flour weight is dark rye, and how much protein does that have"?

Intelligent club members formed goose eggs signs with their fingers.

"That's right, no protein in rye huh"?

Tick - Tock goes the clock, and now the body of bakers move over by my Revent Convection ovens. We insert the sourdough inside the baking chamber and now will have close to 1/2 hour to kill.

Some people walk over to the make up tables and show loaves they have brought from home, while others like Kim Ode brought off shoots of their sourdough starter for people to examine.

Kim uses a liquid starter (which she has named Glinda)which she has in a large Tupperware container with a ladle. You would have thought it was a premiere carnival ride the way people stirred and sloshed ol' Glinda around.

Eventually I scream out that we are about to check the bread. I'm pretty sure the loaves are not completely done, but will my club members realize this?

So seconds before pulling the rack out of the Revent, I remind people to consider the components that we discussed earlier.....

*Low Protein Wheat

*Alcohol Liquid Base

Then an article I had read earlier in the week came to mind and I thought it was applicable......

"Who wants to hear about the Nazi's Rye Propoganda"?

Funny, even after 70 years, if you even mention the word Nazi....peoples expression becomes unnerved.

For the splittest of seconds my audience looked dumb struck, but I knew my intentions were informative, so I just laughed.

"At the beginning of WW2 the Germans had just come off a bumper Rye crop, and owned 20% of all the Rye on the planet. If you are going to war, food is kinda important. The Germans learned this from the first World War since they went into it without ample provisions.

But many of the Nazi's prior to WW2 were concerned that the Allies had wheat, and wheat was a grain with new technologies, it was the grain that was said would fuel giants.

So that's when they literally launched these bizarre campaigns showing Americans looking like huge doltish monsters going up against a much smaller....but better looking and more in control German soldier."

Now some of the class chuckles, but I insert that I wasn't trying to entertain.

I wanted people to realize the difference protein makes in our bread.

The loaves that contain high levels of it stand erect and hold proper form, while the loaves with lower levels sag and look dowdy.

Now I don't want to pass my self off as a nutritionist, but I'll bet their is a lot of truth in how this builds body mass.

As we pulled the loaves out, they were golden brown and had such a s-e-x-y look to them.

We couldn't of been happier.

As this was taking place, I note Kim Ode looking at her watch and she signals to me that its time for her to leave to an interview she must conduct.

Being a boy, and adding to the fact that I love her...I just couldn't resist.

"Kim, could you tell us why you have to leave early today"?

Sheepishly my B.F.F. lifts her head with a grin of excitement and replies.

"I have to go speak to the King of Norway. I was in Oslo last week writing about Norway, and now today is the follow up."

I'd be a liar if I didn't admit I was a little surprised when the class erupted in applause. I'm serious, they didn't merely clap....they "erupted" into applause.

So Kim Ode leaves, the rest of us pack bread, then I send everybody on their way.

It only takes about 45 minutes for me to clean up after one of these events, and most of that is washing dishes.

Whoever prepared my sinks for me went a little overboard with dish soap, the suds looked like shrubbery and almost reached my chin.

I couldn't even see what was in the water. Hoping there was no snakes or sharp knives in there, I cautiously pulled items out one at a time.

The first item was Kim Ode's ladle. Apparently she left Glinda behind so we could continue observing it in her absence....gee, that was swell of her.

But then next...LOL, I pulled out her Tupperware receptacle, and as I inserted the "Greenie" scrub pad into it I saw a piece of tape on the outside wall of the bowl, and on it, written in black permanent marker it said........

"ODE"!

Just when you think you are at that point where you think you know everything about your best friend....the Gods throw a monkey wrench into your wheelhouse.

I would have never-ever-EVER thought that Kim Ode was "That Girl", the girl that marks her $3 Tupperware so it doesn't get lost, and then it occurred to me how everybody had a vault of weird behavior.

Some of it is fun to discover, while other portions might best be left in the dark.

So just as I began wondering what other secrets Kim was holding close to her chest, I mean...like does her husband John have pristine identification labels sewn onto his boxer waistband?

Then it happened, something that raised my BFF's new geek status to.....I'm not sure I can keep her in the girlfriend stable anymore.

That right, I pulled the Tupperware lid from the soap suds, and yes....it too had a Kim Ode tape label on it.

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha..............

Alright, my name is Danny Klecko and I am The Last American Baker

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jekyll & Hyde Kitchen Mom's (Contains Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe)

Since the beginning of time, nobody has worn a bigger bulls-eye than mothers.

Being that their plight is constant and without recompense, common sense might suggest that that their biggest supporters would be their daughters.

LOL......I don't think so.

I can't tell you how many baking, cooking, home economic classes that I have taught or attended where 1/4 of the women present will make statements like........

"It's my moms fault that I can't cook. she never took the time to teach us."

Its a convenient answer, and who knows...maybe in some cases its true.

But Klecko thinks more often that not, the ignorant culinary pupil who just threw their mother under the bus doesn't understand "Regular Girl Rules".

For over 200 posting I've inundated you guys with an anthology focused on my masculine code, but now lets just take a second to regulate the fairer sex.

Ladies....there's only 2 kinds of teaching styles that take place in a kitchen.

Truth be told, it doesn't even matter if the kitchen is residential or commercial, the same rules apply. It doesn't matter if the person in charge of the facility is a man or a woman.

There is only 2 teaching styles...and that's a fact.

For explanatory purposes, we'll stick with the home kitchen.

EXPLANATION OF MOM #1 -

For starters, Mom #1 usually has a name like Mary or Cecelia and loves to control everything that moves under her nose. This is "That Woman" who demands that her husband hands over his paycheck every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month.

In culinary terms, she can be hard for a young daughter to work with. If you haven't noticed, home economics wasn't usually presented to young adults until they were at least 15.

I don't know where you grew up, but on Main Street U.S.A. I have yet to meet a 15 year old girl that deemed it cool to be compliant.

It simply isn't in their D.N.A. and to be honest, I think that's why I like them.

Mom #1 works off of recipes from a cookbook collection that will weigh more than a collection of 1954 Encyclopedia Britannica's.

Mom #1 never varies from the script even if weather or ingredients hoist red flags of warning from the stove top.

The woman who sports this anal demeanor is really easy to pile on, because often times there isn't a shred of romance in what she executes.

Mother #1 simply isn't an artist.....she's a technician.

I'm willing to bet that as you read that description, most of you have already attached it to the face of somebody you know/knew well.

Who knows, you might have even caught yourself chuckling, and you know what? I get it.....that woman is kinda a trip, but I'll tell you what.

Even though you may disagree with every component of Mother #1's life, she's still the best resource you'll ever have if you want to become competent enough to craft edible traditions for your family in years to come.

So go ahead, sit in the boat house with your cousins and make fun of Mom #1's shoes or let you uncle drink too much and rail on how she drives with her left foot on the brakes........

But don't you dare criticize "That Woman" for not helping you along because conversely, this is the same woman that goes to bed and prays for a protege to drop from the sky.

The only thing you're going to have to remember while working with Mother #1 is simple.

Keep your mouth shut!

She doesn't want to hear your opinions or ideas, and why would she?

Passing on a lifetimes experience is going to take complete focus from the student.

EXPLANATION OF MOM #2 -

OK.....what's mothers #2's name? I don't know, maybe something like Rhoda or Celeste.

Mother #2 might have a cookbook collection, but if so, I'll bet it doesn't pierce double digits, and none of the books will be dogeared or have gravy stains in the margins.

When cooking with Mother #2, you might want to notice how she doesn't issue commands, but every once in awhile.... she might drop a hint.

If you get that hint....well who knows? she might expound, but then again...she might not.

And another thing that is peculiar about working with her is that while preparing this meal, she almost never talks about the ingredients or cooking techniques that will be involved in the preparation, instead she'll express an opinion about Lady Gaga's newest wardrobe selection, or talk about the neighborhoods new off street parking ordinance.

Basically Mother #2 is the one you want to be with if you get trapped elevator.

Mother #2 is more concerned with being your friend, not your mother.

When I was younger, and I heard these women bi****** about their moms lack of commitment to their culinary education, these lamentations just went over my head.

However, now that I older (and a little more curious) I try to meet or get a rundown on the complainants mother, and I'll bet you that the vast majority of the time....the complainant's mother wasn't negligent in rearing her daughter.

It's just that one of them was a type "A" and the other was a "B".

If progress is going to take place in any-any-any kitchen, both parties don't have to share identical temperaments, but they do have to buy into the same system.

At my home,my daughter KiKi hated taking instruction.

Her comfort zone was to simply watch and take mental notes.

None of us were good cooks at that period of our life, and she became the family member that really put together a system that Sue McGleno and I try to follow to this day.

By the time KiKi was 17, she was busting out our families Thanksgiving dinner.

I can't tell you how it cracked me up watching the wheels in her young mind spinning every time Sue McGleno braved boiling water.

In fairness to my wife, she has gotten much better in preparing food, but much of that is due to my KiKi's willingness to observe fault, learn, fail, expersize patience....and then teach.

I don't know if my daughter remembers this, but years ago (she must of been 13ish) her and I were in the living room watching Xena Warrior Princess.

Just a few feet away, off in our kitchen, Sue McGleno and young Tydus were baking chocolate chip cookies.

Noticing that her daughter wasn't present, Sue McGleno asked the eternal question that all mothers throw in the face of their daughters.......

"Do you want to come in the kitchen and bake cookies with your brother and me?"

Kiki had a puzzled look and leaned closer to me and asked for clarification....

"If they are just throwing those Betty Crocker cookie pucks in the oven, that's not baking is it?"

I shook my head "NO" and the two of us giggled for minutes.

About 20 minutes later, mayhem erupted from the kitchen.

The chocolate chip cookies were left on the sheet pan when pulled from the oven and the bottoms were torched.

As KiKi and I covertly accessed the damage.....you've never seen bigger smirks.

At that point Big Papi stated the obvious....

"If you want them to turn out right, you might want to ask KiKi to bake those"?

My entire family is comprised of bullheaded buffoons.

To this day, 13 years later, Tydus and Sue McGleno are still known to burn Pre made cookie pucks.

OK Kids.....let's talk about baking cookies.

Old World Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
* 1/4 cup shortening
* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 1 egg
* 1 egg yolk
* 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
* 1/2 cups walnuts

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Next you'll want to line your cookie pans with parchment paper. Pan selection is important. Make sure your sheet pans don't have rims along the sides. This will produce uneven baking.

2. Use your hand or mixing paddle to gently mix together the flour, baking soda and salt, and then you can set it aside.

3. Then in a different bowl, cream together the melted butter and shortening, brown sugar and white sugar until they are incorporated. After that, toss in your in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk and beat it until it turns creamy. You may notice that it will turn a little lighter in color as well. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts by hand. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are brown. Cool on baking sheets for no more than a few minutes and then place them onto a cooling rack. If you leave them on the sheet pan to long....just ask Sue McGleno and Tydus what happens.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT................

Soccer Moms, Hippies and Purists.....now is your chance LOL. Line up and bash Klecko for using shortening in his cookies. It's the vogue thing to do.

"Oh Klecko....I always use 100% unsalted butter in my cookies and they turn out fine!"

Good Grief Charlie Brown......I don't want to fight with you, but "No they don't!"

Or maybe they do, for you, and your family. Maybe you like a cookie with a low flash point from less viscosity.

Maybe you like a cookie that becomes brittle because it housing agent couldn't hold it's mud.

100% butter simply bleeds out guys.

Shortening in large doses is gross, I so get that but is you convert 25% to 33% of your fat in shortening.....it will turn out better.

The only thing I ask is if you want to argue this point....bring it on, but only after humoring me and trying my method.

Danny Klecko isn't combative by nature.....he just wants all his lady friends to experience cookie harmony.

Oh yeah.....one last thing. Crisco shortening is now trans fat free, so that is great, but if you try this brand....just get the original, the butter flavored version tastes raunchy.

Good Luck.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Episode #200....Season 2 Finale

For close to a year Klecko has provided you with a post every 1.376 days.

It's important for me to keep stride, I know how many of you are kind enough to insert my musings into your lunch breaks or during those special moments in your life that you spend alone with yourself.

I covet being apart of that.

And if there's just one things that really hacks me off, its when I am sprawled out on the couch to watch Project Runway and the network decides to drop a bomb that says.....

"Due to tonight's programming, such and such will not be on so we can bring to you the following blah-blah-blah. Make sure to join us next week at the regular broadcast time for.... etc-etc".

I wouldn't do that to a brother.

Well it's been 4 days since my last post, but on a season finale, you can't rush it.

All day yesterday, and all this morning I asked the Holy Polish Ghost to give me a great closing piece.

Dude....the Holy Polish Ghost so...moves in mysterious ways.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

If you're a guy, and your at the gym, there are certain "Guy Rules" for just about everything that takes place during your work out. we've talked about some of these things in the past.

Tonight was a "Legs and Cardio day", but to be honest. I skipped "Legs" and decided that I would just do my 30 minutes on the "Dreadmill" and then head home.

So Klecko climbs on and starts his workout.

At about the 10 minute mark, all of a sudden...out of nowhere, I kinda had to pee.

The pressure was not unbearable, but it was more than mild.

Huff-Puff Huff-Puff.....am I going to be able to make it 20 more minutes?

Well bless the Saint Faustina and all of the kittens in Warsaw, guess who just happens to enter the gym unannounced?

It's Sue McGleno and she decides to hop on the treadmill next to mine.

Every time Sue McGleno treadmills, she always selects a unit next to mine.

Some of you may think that's sweet, maybe even kinda romantic, but its really not.

Sue McGleno's just nosey and wants to goose neck and check out my running time, heart rate, and a 1/2 the other statistics that I don't even understand.

13:41 - 13:42 - 13:43 reads my L.E.D. screen, but after a lengthy pause....she'll ask me......

"How long have you been walking"?

I never answer.

But now it starts to get worse, I have to pee really-really bad.

The quandary here however is....according to "Regular Guy" rules, if you step off the treadmill for any reason, you forfeit the accrued minutes and have to start over and repeat the set in it's entirety.

Typically Klecko is in control of his surroundings, but today....I got sucker punched by my bladder.

It's funny though, cuz even though at that point, I knew I wouldn't last the full set, but yet I still delayed surrender.

What was I thinking? It's not like the angels were going to glide down from the heavens and hit me up with some kind of catheter hook up.

Just about the point when I was about to burst and imitate George Jetson getting caught in some kind of inter galactic - perpetual tread mill loop, I hopped off and ducked walked out of the gym, into the isolated cinder block hallway and down the corridor to the rest room.

When I turned the corner, a door that I never noticed was open and for the splitest of seconds, I was more than creeped out.

Only serial killers hang out in utilities closets ,in cinder block hallways right?

Not this time. With my head on a swivel I noticed it was Annie the gym attendant, and she was mixing cleaning chemicals over the utility sink.

She looked sad, but I had to pee.

Maybe it's T.M.I. to share thoughts that go through your mind while you are urinating, but we're family now...right?

Well to be honest, I was more than concerned when I saw Annie appear upset.

She is 25, a year younger than my daughter, and is new to the Twin Cities.

Her hometown is somewhere in northern Michigan and she came here about a year ago to attend school.

I've known her for 1/2 a year and see her at the gym 5 to 6 nights a week.

In addition to classes, and taking care of our work out space, she also work at a deli,

I admire this young woman's work ethic. She reminds me of my daughter.

So now I exit the bathroom and Annie is mixing more chemicals as if she were Dr. Frankenstein.

So Klecko stands next to her and asks here what's new?

Annie gets this 1/2 morose smile and answers......

"Tomorrow I am going to be 25, I think I'm going to take the night off and have drinks at the Happy Gnome. (dramatic pause - puppy dog eyes are raised, then she asks....)If you, or you and Sue McGleno wanted to stop by, that would be cool."

That's when my heart sank, for a couple reasons.

First off, when you are 25 and beautiful....do you really want to spend a marquee birthday with middle aged peeps?

Well, Sue McGleno and I were hard locked into dinner plans, ones that we couldn't get out of even if we wanted to.

So I tell Annie this, and the sadness in her eyes sank a little deeper.

"Hey kid, if I could, I would go for drinks, but what I really wanted was to bring you a birthday cake. Let me guess.....you're a chocolate girlio right?"

Annie swirls some bleach, or pink soap,or wind shield wash looking stuff and replies.....

"That's nice of you (and now a dim light starts to rise in her eyes) but I wouldn't want you to go through the trouble. But I've never been crazy about chocolate cake. I'm into red velvet!"

The kid was reaching out, she was vunerable, in a very natural way.

In Klecko's world, there is nothing more kryptonite than lonliness, so he's pretty sensitive to that when he sees it in others.

So now all of a sudden my mind starts zipping through my skull and my thoughts shifted and I began to think about my daughter.

She's in Omaha.

That's 6 hours away from me.

So now as I look at Annie smiling over potential cake prospects, I began to wonder if my little KiKi has ever had to reach out to some thug like me in Nebraska.

As we speak (me and you that is), the cake is done, and resting in the freezer, I will be bringing it to the kid in a few hours.

During the first 100 episodes (Series #1) of The Last American Baker, Sue McGleno was the main supporting charactor that I intertwined with food industry stories.I felt by adding her....it might be the quickest way for you guys to get to know me.

Then in Season #2, Kim Ode was the walk on. In addition to being better than friends, she kinda is my work spouse.

But now that I've tossed over a million words at you guys, I've realized that maybe I've been using my bully pulpit as a confessional, and maybe it's time to focus on somebody other than myself.

Maybe that person should be you.

Most of my readers are women, and that's why I decided that in series #3, maybe there is something that I can give you in addition to recipes, poems and embellished stories.

I think I am going to feature my daughter KIKI, and my Granddaughter Madison.

In some respects I think I value my daughters attention more than anybodys on the planet.

Because for the longest of times, I wasn't certain it was even obtainable.

Dear Polish Christ.....we crossed miles of razor blades to get to where we are today.

KiKi is stubborn, opinionated and a lout.

She is the splitting image of her father.

But you know, there was a solid decade of my life when I went to bed in fear each morning.

I was afraid that my daughter wouldn't realize I was just trying to be a dad, and do dad things, and that perhaps she would go on hating me for the rest of my life.

In my world it has been dad first, friend second.

Now that I have a granddaughter thats 2 1/2, I am thakful.

Spending time with her gives me an oppurtunity to show my daughter that I have paid attention to what she has taught me.

Thanks for everything, I look forward to the next 100 episodes.

I love most of you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Alone @ Oktoberfest / Apple Crisp Recipe

What a night of romance I had last night.

Like an old couple, Sue McGleno and I started our date somewhere around 2 30 p.m.

Our commitment to love started off in the Big Man / Tall Man shop where the both of us did our best to create my ensemble for my upcoming poetry reading at the University Club.

I won't reveal the "exact look" that I'm going to be throwing down, but lets just say that I might be wearing a tie for the first time in my adult life.

As I looked through the selections, I silently chuckled knowing I would have to look of the internet to find out how tie the thing.

So now the counter chick walks over, asks me if I'm the baker guy, and when I tell her I am, she begins to grill me......

"Me and my husband see you at the State Fair all of the time, and it's none of my business, but I'm still perplexed as to why you changed the name of your "Nasty" bread to Saint Paul Sourdough."

So after dodging her inquiry I tell her about my upcoming poetry gig, I tell her how I want to look nice, but before I can finish listing the look I want to achieve....girlio lifts up some tie that has different shades of purple, mauve and lavender criss-crossing all over the map.

"Lady, fetch my a Republican tie, please!" I asked, but then Sue McGleno chimed in how she agreed with whats her head, that the purple Easter egg tie was really nice.

Why is it that women want to dress their men in apparel that they would wear?

So after getting my goods, we headed down the street to the State Fair grounds to check out the Oktoberfest.

As I pulled through the gates, I kinda did so 1/2 grimacing because I always recoil a bit when returning to this venue that is typically ingrained in my memory with the street covered with an ocean of people.

Today........it was ghost city kid.

On the State Fair grounds there must be around 22 billion buildings, surprisingly I found the one with the screaming Germans in no time at all.

After paying our gate fee, S.M. and I walked the perimeter of this warehouse to see what our 10 bucks just bought us.

Besides beer and food there was a few other things.

On a makeshift stage sat a bunch of old (and I mean old) guys who wore the traditional German garb and played polka's with accordions and tubas.

These cats had swag!

Then there was a bunch of people wearing lederhosen while standing around tree stumps. For 3 bucks each, you were given a nail that the host would pound slightly into the wood.

So everybody has an erect nail, and then the host pulls out a huge-huge hammer that has the striking side, and another side the is tapered and narrow.

The handle has a red line painted on it to show you wear your grip must be. There is no "choking up" and boys get one hand where girls can use two.

So me and Sue McGleno paired off against another couple, crowds were forming, people watching, laughing.

How do I say this w/o sounding egotistical, I dunno...many I don't, but the other couple was kinda quiet-chubby and frumpy.

I mean it was as if I was surprised that they even came forward to play. Their appearance and conduct was sheepish.

I wanted to destroy them.

I wanted to win the cowbell prize and hand it to Sue McGleno and walk around this warehouse like I was the shiz.

On my first strike........John Henry would have been proud, I delivered a blow that sunk my nail 50%

Everybody cheered.

The tubby dude across from me looked sad.

On the next round, all of us whiffed, but when it came to my masculine counterpart.....

"CRASH".....the nail went flush, he struck a blow that was absolutely perfect.

He was the winner.

As you can imagine, the audience went berserk, it was like the Padres besting the Yankees in the World Series.

For a fleeting moment I was really pissed, that is until I saw the tubby guy light up in abject delight.

His wife, girlfriend, whatever she was, pulled him close and hugged the stuffing out of him.

Dude had such a look, I mean "Praise Polish Christ", such a look of happiness, I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm almost kinda glad I lost.

Sue McGleno has given me a few of those "I can't believe it" hugs over the years.

When you look back at these moments later, often times one forgets what the source of the merriment was, well....sometimes the purpose has been forgotten or rusted, but at that very moment.....there was nothing more important in their world than beating that big tattooed dick across the log from them.

My chubby protagonist had foiled my intentions and was probably going to get some "extra celebration" from mama tonight.

At this point I extended my hand to congratulate the victor, for a fleeting second, I think he thought I was going to grab him, but when he realized my true intention, he got that "Sorry brah, I thought you were going to "F" with me look".

I've been in his position, so I just smiled and then we shook hands.

The venues space had this eerie glow. Basically we were in a warehouse, and the ceiling was high up and had vertical windows between the walls and the rooftop.

This produced lighting like you would see in some Vincent Price movie, I mean I wasn't sure what was more likely.......

Was I gonna polka with the Germans or get probed by some alien.

Then there was 8 rows of picnic tables. Each row was covered with blue and white plastic - checkered table cloths.

Each row was probably 100 yards long.

The set up was geared to hold thousands, but right now its about 3:45 in the afternoon, and I'll bet there wasn't over 125 people in the place.

I think there was 4 or 5 other similar Oktoberfest events taking place across the Twin Towns.

Usually when I go to an event in Saint Paul, I'll (we'll) run into a few peeps that we know, but today was different.....these were Germans.

We don't have a single connection to them.

I have mentioned recently that Baking with the Germans is my last desire professionally, and after this occurs, I am going to jump off public radar once and for all.

But as I sat there, with the prettiest girl in the room. I realized how much empty road (a metaphor you know) I was gonna have to cross.

I hate starting journeys,books or movies from the beginning. I've always liked inserting myself in the middle of these things.

Some will say that you miss plot points, but I feel that if you hit the ground running, you will get to bypass all the prologue and red tape.

It's not that she doesn't have money, and it's not that she doesn't make as much as me, but like at most events....Sue McGleno puts her hands out in the "Give me your wallet" position.

She doesn't like it if I just hand her a 20 or a 50, she wants the wallet.

Well.....as she is waiting in line for a brat and some apple crisp, little Klecko sits in this massive space......alone.

Then I started to think, how will this final chapter play out?

How will my relationship with the Germans go?

Who knows, maybe one day I will sit in some room in Berlin and tell them about the fat guy kicking my a** in the tree stump game.

I must have been deep in thought, because I didn't even notice that Sue McGleno ditched me for what seemed like a couple of months, when she resurfaced, she had her brat, a Diet Coke, and of course her coveted apple crisp.

BTW, on the top of her cute little monkey mug she was now sporting one of the hats that the Germans, Austrians and Swiss wear when they yodel in the mountains, but in the spot that typically adorns those little feathers, was a felt beer mug that was super glued to the hat.

"Can you believe it only cost me $9" the bride of Klecko brags?

Klecko responded with a sigh.

Now the polka band comes back from a brief intermission and starts off their set with "I don't want her, you can have her, she's too fat for me" and I begin to laugh.

Hasn't "PC" hit the polka community?

I posed this question to Danny Klecko's friends on Facebook, but before I had time to get answers.....my little Russian Jew used some questionable German......

"What kinda shiest is this? There is no crisp in my apple crisp. Oktoberfest sucks!"

Well, they say the 1000 mile journey starts with the first step, however in my case....it might have been a step backwards LOL.

Located below is an apple crisp recipe that is certain not to disappoint you, and lets remember der kinder....its Berlin or Bust for the Last American Baker!

Klecko's Apple Crisp


3 large cooking apples ( I like Pink Lady) sliced (4 cups)

1 handful of golden raisins

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 A.P flour

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/3 cup butter

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Sue McGleno tops hers with Cream Ice cream, but us real Pollacks use about a gallon of Cool-Whip



* 1 Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with butter.

* 2 Spread apples and in pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients except until well mixed; sprinkle over apples.

* 3 Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork.