Thursday, May 31, 2012

When I used to bake for God (seriously)

The following is an article I read online @ Hub Pages ........

The Making and Manufacturing of Communion Wafer

If you are a member of a Christian church then you are probably very familiar with the Holy Communion and how the communion wafer is used as a part of that ritual. But do you know the whole story behind the communion wafer? Do you know who makes these wafers today? Do you even know what ingredients are in a communion wafer? If you’re interested in the story behind the communion wafer that you may take as a regular part of your religious worship then read on.

The Ingredients Used in Making a Communion Wafer

The communion wafer is (as anyone who has tasted it knows) a very bland food. It represents the body of Christ so it has big meaning but the food itself is very simple. The communion wafer’s simplicity is part of what makes it such a great ritual food. It is not the taste of the communion wafer that you focus on (since it barely has one) but rather the ritual surrounding the consumption of the Communion wafer.

The most basic communion wafers are made out of only two ingredients. They are made out of a combination of very pure wheat flour and water. Simple isn’t it? There are some communion wafers that may contain slightly more complex recipes. They may include yeast and some may even include salt to give them the tiniest twinge of flavor (a flavor similar to human tears and perhaps representative of the human condition of suffering).

The most special ingredient that is sometimes, but only rarely, used in the making of communion wafers is holy water. In some situations, holy water may be sprinkled over the dough that is to be used to make communion wafers. The holy water is then kneaded into the dough and the wafers are made.

Who Manufactures Communion Wafers?

There once was a time when only very special people were allowed to make communion wafers. According to the known history of communion wafers, the situation used to be that each local church would select a single baker to be allowed the right to make communion wafers. A special oven specifically designed for this purpose would have to be used by this baker to preserve the ritual surrounding the making of the wafers.

Over time, it became less and less specialized as to who was allowed to bake communion wafers. This began with the expansion of the right to certain orders of nuns who historically began to make communion wafers as a way to gain some financial profit for the church. As time went on and we moved into modern society, the task of making communion wafers began to fall on large industry manufacturers and moved out of the realm of sacred rituals that had existed previously with the independent bakers and the nuns.

Today there are several different large manufacturers that produce communion wafers as a major or minor part of their businesses. However, it is reported that one single manufacturer produces the communion wafers for over three quarters of the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran churches in the United States, Canada, England and Australia. That manufacturer is The Cavanagh Company which is a family business located in Rhode Island.

Making Communion Wafers is a Hands-Off Business

What’s interesting about the manufacturing of the communion wafers, at least by this company, is that they pride themselves on the fact that the work of this business is done entirely by machines. They promote their product as “untouched by human hands” which supposedly helps to preserve the sanctity of the product despite the fact that manufacturing of communion wafers has shifted from being the work of nuns and bakers sanctioned by the church to being the work of a big business. And a big business it is; the company employs three dozen full-time staff members to help keep up with the demand for communion wafers that is coming in from all around the world.

Manufacturing Communion Wafers in the Declining Economy

There may be any number of reasons that The Cavanagh Company decided to get into the business of manufacturing communion wafers so many years ago but certainly at least one of those reasons was to make a profit as a business. So how is this business doing now that the economy has shifted and many niche businesses are losing money? Well, it turns out that this is one business that it’s probably a good time to be a part of.

According to news reports, The Cavangh Company is one of very few businesses that is actually reporting an increase in sales as a result of the downturn in the economy. When times get tough, more and more people head to church. With the economy facing tough times in all areas of the globe where communion wafers are served, there are more people at the church who are taking communion and that means a better bottom line for the communion wafer family business.

Some People Want a Return to the Past

Although most of the world’s communion wafers are supplied by this company, there are still convents and parishes that make their own communion wafers all throughout the world. There are some people who are pushing for a return to this way of making communion wafers. Reasons for this push include a desire to financially assist the church and a belief that the product is more sacred when created by these people. Although this push is unlikely to make a big change in the business of manufacturing communion wafers, it is certainly something that local people may consider doing. After all, we all want to put our money where our mouths are right?

End of story.......

I had to smile when I read this because their once was a time I made prototype communion wafers for a company that wanted to package them individually and send them over seas to American military bases.

The guy is charge was kinda a greasy kind of bloke, and I didn't trust him all that much, but I did like the thought of baking "God's Bread."

The greasy dude and I kinda had a falling out though because he thought we should bake wine into the wafers instead of water, and that way when the person placed the communion in their mouth....they would be receiving not just the body of Christ.....but the blood as well.

I bought a case of really good red wine and made samples, but after baking a batch, I felt convicted.

I am not smart enough to know if it was Polish Jesus, the Holy Ghost, or just my own musings, but I thought.....

"To hell with simply can't combine the wine and bread, that's so cheating."

So I called the guy and told him (even though it wasn't true) that God told me that if we incorporated the wine into the dough....he (the greasy guy) would burn in hell.

Now as you can imagine, I delivered this information with a wise guy delivery, but the dude really got upset and started yelling.

I yelled back and the whole thing ended up with the guy burning me on payment.

Not only did he jilt me on my time, but on my ingredient cost as well.

It took me 1/2 a year to drink that case of wine.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Morphine, Kerouac and Russian Democracy

I probably shouldn't admit it, but I will.

Even if you have to pay the price of letting a doctor drill inside of your head, it might be worth it as long as you get to take morphine and read books for 5 days.

A week ago this very moment I was in surgery.

In some ways it seems like years ago.

Now that all those pain meds have been flushed through my system, in a weird way....I gotta tell ya.

Other than the rods inserted into my skull....last week left me with "some" fond memories.

Now before I get started, I'll hit you with the disclaimer which says.....respect drugs, blah-blah-blah.

But 4 or 5 days on presciption pain killers and Kerouac, I have to tell you, it makes for quite a vacation.

I've always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and if you've ever read the stories written about his terrier like exploits, you already know that when his case came to an end, often times he'd slink away into an opium den and drift off into bliss.

LOL-----I think I so get it.

The thing that I really enjoyed about the experiance was that the "M" put me in a state of mind where I wanted to be alone, but with out the side effect of feeling lonely.

I knew I didn't need to set an alarm clock.

I knew that I didn't have to pick up my cell phone if it rang.

I didn't pays bills, and I didn't mow the lawn.

Instead I just swallowed 2 little pills and sat on the couch.

It would be 4:30 in the morning,and it rained alot while I was convalescing.

Not just rain-rain, but rain with crashing - thunder rain....and Klecko just sat there, with rods in his head, a grin on his face, reading Jack Kerouac's "My Brother the Sea".

If you are not hip to this book, it was just recently released.

I think Kerouac's brother or cousin found the manuscript in a dresser, and experts say it was Jack's first book written.

I loved it.

Kerouac loved sailing, like I love baking, and as I flipped through the pages, it was nice to see somebody using words to explain their passion.

I don't care if a guy digs ditches or cuts hair, if they told are into what they do, I kinda like to hear them talk about it.

The story focuses on this guy named Wesley who leaves behind oppurtunites, family and love to just be in an element he adores.....the sea.

Theres a part in the book where one of the charactors describes how each person on the ship has to take turns standing on the front of the boat and keeping watch on the horizon for 2 hours at a time.

All the sailors whine about having to do this task, but it is noted that "Something must be wrong with Wesley, because he seems to enjoy it."

When I read that, I did stop for a second and think that never once in my life have I dreaded walking into a bakery. I've pretty much enjoyed every shop I've worked in.

Towards the end of the book we meet a charactor who is young, handsome and has a strong yearning to sail to Russia, was it fate, coincidence, or the morphine....but this kids name was Danny, and the only thing on this kids bucket list was to go to Russia and live amongst these people.

Then there is a solid chapter where Danny sits in the engine room and has a conversation with a mechanic, and the both of them share views on people, politics and religion.

For those of you who know me, you realize politics really are not my forte.....but I do have some opinions.

One of the words that got thrown around alot was "Demoocracy".

Danny and the mechanic wrestled over whether (not in its purist form, but its application) if democracy actually reaped positive results.

Now if you grow up in the United States like I have, and spent your youth standing in majectic wheat fields, gazing at bald just know.....democracy is so red-white and blue. It is the answer to EVERYTHING.

But now I set the book down and just stared into the bulb of my monkey reading lamp and reflected on an experiance I once had that refuted this point.

in 2007 I traveled to the southwestern part of Russia, towards the Black Sea, to a board walk city called Gelendzhik.

On my only day off, the head of the plant that I worked at took me on a tour of his region.

I forget the guys name, and he was nice enough.....but the cat was pretty uptight by most peoples standards.

I say this because I remember how hard I laughed when we drove through the mountains how this dapper man beemed with delight while explaining to me how much fun he had on his last holiday when he chased somekind of horned wart hog things through the steep mountain brush with a long spear.

Next the guy took me to an area that had a series of short houses that were made of stone.

They only stood chest high, and their doorways consisted of small hobbit hole looking things.

Some people think they were constructed by pre caveman peeps, while others are under the impression that these structures were made by little green guys in UFO's.

I was told that scientists from across the planet had done carbon testing and they all pretty much agreed these houses were like a trillion years old......I don't know.

After that, the nice man took me to one more stop. We were quite a distance away from the boardwalk now, out in the middle of nowhere.

When the guys pulled over and told me and my interpreter to get out, I kinda wondered if it was going to be a mob hit or something because when I got out of the car......I was standing in the midst of thousands of acres of desolate ground.

There were no buildings, no trees, no water.......just crappy grown over weedy terrain.

Why would this guy bring me here I wondered.

My host could see I was puzzled and with a look of self satisfaction....he looked eager to tell the American the following.

"This area we stand on, it is"

I wasn't certain if this was one of those trick questions, like the kind Nuns throw at you, but I nodded in agreement anyway.

He continued.....

"This property used to be highly coveted across my country. You are standing amidst what was the finest wine vinard in Russia (but he did preface some Ukrainians would disagree)for several centuries. Year after year countless grapes were produced here, enough to not only service our country, but to be exported as well."

Then I could tell that the guy wasn't trying to be a nob or anything, cuz I could see a saddness come over his face.

"But all of that changed in the early 90's. After democracy was introduced to us, people became more concerned with expressing their opinions than actually doing any work. Within less than 5 years....this beautiful vineyard, and its traditions and history were wiped out. I just wanted to show you this, not to insult you or your lifestyle, but to know that nobody's system is perfect. A system needs to be developed around the people."

In the final chapter of Kerouac's tale....Wesley walks onto the deck and finds a man reading the Bible to all the sailors. Wesley is kinda intrigued by this, but doesn't want to get close enough where somebody will try to rope him in, but the reason I think the stories conclusion stuck with me was......

The guy reading the scriptures was the ships baker.

Polish Jesus......I give praise unto thee.....thank you for pain killers and good books.

Monday, May 28, 2012

When a Fool Wakes.......

"Dedicated to Dr. Cox"

Maybe its this morphine that they got me on.....but the last week of my life seem like a dream sequence from a foreign film.

Six days ago I remember slipping into that hospital gown, hair net, and specialty stockings that come equipped with the no slip tread.

Even though Klecko had officially informed "Girlfriend Nation" that he's be going under ground until the angels of Warsaw healed him.....I just couldn't resist leaving the world a Facebook photo of the "Baker in Agony"....just moments before getting spiked to the cross.

One advantage, or disadvantage to being forced into one of those hospital gowns is...they tie in the back, by 2 small strings that hang over the back of the neck.

For most people, this means that their a** hangs out while taking that last "Death March" from the locker room to anesthesiology, but for the Last American Baker...I also have a big Ape Tattoo that introduces himself to every wheelchair occupant riding down wind.

So after saying good bye to Sue McGleno, I marched bravely into the operating room.

I simply can't put into words how tripped out I was knowing that under the best scenario.....I'd wake up several hours later, after having had a tube slid down my throat,while my nasal passages were roto rootered, and 2 - 7 centimeter splints would be inserted inserted into my nose, from the nostril to somewhere in the back cheek bone area.

But I had to do it....I've gotten to a point where I simply cannot breath out of my nose.

The staff was laid back, so much so in fact...that when they slid my onto the operating table, Pearl Jam was singing Jeremy over a P.A. system.

I took that as a sign.

Typically Memorial Day weekend is my favorite time of the year. It is the only time when my entire neighborhood gets the hell out of Dodge and leaves me alone.

I would much rather have my own neighborhood left to me, than share a point of interest with others.

Highland Park, during the holiday weekend is like a ghost town.

I felt this would be the perfect environment for healing.

Now as many of you folks who have had operations know, my recovery isn't just focused on my body healing from the procedure,but sometimes if you are lucky enough to be in a fixable state of repair, your mending is also going to deal with how mental you've become from your ailment, and how it's derailed your quality of life.

While the body recovers, the mind will try to find balance....right?

So I guess as I attacked this whole horrible ordeal, I kinda wanted to do it alone, but I wanted you guys to keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

Throughout the last week I just can't tell you how touched I have been through your collective kindness.

In some ways I think I've discovered some deep truths, but then again....I've been amped up on some level 10 pain killers.

But when you you get older, I don't thing the world changes as much as much as your own perception does.

Over the last week I have had Nuns hold Mass for me while I was knocked out.

I have had messages sent to me across the planet from Christians,Muslims,Buddhists and even Atheists, and the constant theme from each one of them......

They knew that I was distressed, and they were going to pray for me.

I mean, I don't even know how that works.

Different people of different faiths praying for a Polish kid that basically only answers to street savvy Nuns.

And who or what does an Atheist pray too?

According to theology, I think I'm pretty much just supposed to put my hope and faith into the prayers that align with my personal doctrine....but I have to tell you something people....

It's humbling to be a platform for prayer.

It's humbling to have a person who knows their belief system is different than yours approach you, and tell you that they love you and are going to pray to their God for you.

I was absolutely staggered by not just the prayers, but the affection that was attached to them.

I don't know how the end of the world is going to go down.

I'm not sure how strong the Co Exist vibe will be. It sounds so unlike me to get all ecumenical, but through this last week, I've haven't lived in practical reality, but in some ways....I've just floated in an Avalon like mist.

But if a world full of different religions, thoughts and ideals can aim its intent of love on a foolish soul such as myself,for no other purpose than hope... I just have to believe that one day these patterns of love and thoughtfulness will manifest into an answer, or "that answer" that has divided so many of us.

I think this summer at the E8, I am going to propose that morphine becomes mandatory...LOL, with it, great ideas can surface.

The first 48 hours at home were surreal.

I wasn't in pain, but those rods in my head added physical discomfort and made me tweak just a bit mentally. Its nothing but flat out creepy having implements festering, burrowing into your nasal cavities like stubborn rodents.

I remember last Saturday thinking.....

"By this time next Saturday morning. I will just sit back, and watch back to back episodes of the Rifle Man on AMC, and by that time those rods will be out of my skull, and the worst will be behind me."

When the doctor finally took them was a weird sensation, dude put a plastic bag over me so I wouldn't get bloodied right? Then he cut some nostril stitches, placed the tweezers onto the rod, and then laid his open hand on my forehead, kinda like when the Pentecostal preachers baptize somebody.

Then Doc looks in there a bit, and says its not going to hurt, but it will "offer an unusual sensation.", and I should say it did.

The rods were kinda stuck from coagulated nostril blood.....

"I gotta tell ya Dan, your septum ended up being trickier that I thought it would be. From the scans we had no way of know that your nose has been broken at least 3 or 4 times."


So this morning, Saturday morning, I rolled off the couch and flipped the remote to AMC to watch the Rifle Man and celebrate partial recovery, but wouldn't you know it...

They had on a war movie marathon for the holiday.

It kinda disappointed me, so I just took my 6 a.m. drugs and went into my computer room to creep on my world.

Outside the skies were overcast and rainy. My neighborhood looked much more like an Irish keepsake post card. Everything was green, and more green, but the skies were dark and morose.

So while I am doing this, I notice a white sedan cruising Hartford Avenue. Actually its about 10 minutes until 6, and this car parks in front of my house, cruises back up the street, turns around.....

I just sat there in my underwear surveying the confusion, but when the car pulled up in front of my house again, I didn't want to have visitor prior to 6 a.m. checking me out on drugs and in high fashion boxer shorts.

So I ducked out into the living room a waited a moment.

My mailbox slammed, the dog pack barked, and I went to see what was dropped off.

It turned out to be an envelope that contained a home made card from Ron Miller and his wife.

Ron is the President of my Saint Paul Bread Club.

As I sat there in a perfectly still neighborhood, I kinda felt this twinge of heavy sentiment.

I've known Ron for over a decade now.

He is (like all of us) getting older. Now days he is forced to use a cane to navigate his way around.

I have never socialized with him outside of bread club, I have nothing in common with him, he is 25 years plus older than me, and a devout Jew, but yet I can't think of a single man on the planet I respect more.

The card that he (and I'm willing to bet his wife Carla) dropped off was homemade and laced with nose humor.

I just smiled thinking about how he and his wife went past "intentions" and took the time to stake out my house only to drop off a message of hope.

I remember one year at the State Fair when Ron did a 30 minute demo for me, his, flew in from different parts of the nation, just to watch their dad do what he loves for a brief 1/2 hour.

My goodness, how wonderful our species can be, when we allow ourselves to be decent.

Yeah...I know, I know...eventually my drugs will taper off, the course of a bakers typical life will cross my path, and all the deep musings that go along with being a sensitive Food Service worker will wash under the bridge, but if just for one fleeting moment, at an important time of silence in my life. I would like to express my gratitude and also tell John Lennon...

I don't have to "Imagine", I've witnessed first hand now how a populace can come together, and put behind their differences behind when their cities bread jester is fighting to breathe.

I love everyone of you guys, and although I'm not claiming that I am officially "healed".....I am excited to report that last night, I slept on my back, laying down...for the first time in years.

I can breath.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Polish Crucifixtion, and the "Take Home Loaf"

According to Polish theology, the Polish Christ had to accept having 3 spikes piercing his body if the rest of us were going to receive the bounty of his grace.

Later in history....the Apostle Paul said something like "All you kids out there need to work out your own salvation."

Well if you combine those 2 thoughts, you have me....the Last American Baker this coming Tuesday morning.

In some respects I'm getting off EZ because I don't have to die for you guys, and better yet....I'm not gonna get pieced with 3 long spikes.

Instead.....Klecko is going to have 2 - 4 inch rods placed into his skull.

Throughout the majority of my life, my quality of breathing has suffered due to a deviated septum.

Well......after spending years of dealing with the ancillary side effects, I have surrendered to logic and have decided to go in and have the surgery.

For those of you who are Pollacks, you understand my plight. The children of Warsaw all know that God's simplest law is......

The doctor can't tell you that you are going to die.....if you don't ever take time to visit the doctor.

I know - I don't have to say it.....

But anyways, this will be my last post until my healing time expires.

I was told that will be 5-7 days.

But truth be told.....I am wigging a bit.

Dude is gonna stick those rods in my head and send me home 2 hours later, then I have to go on living life, at the Klecko estate, for 48 hours with rods in my head.....

Saint Faustina have mercy on my soul.

Anyways.....if I should die before I wake, I hope one more story.......for you to take.

The Take Home Loaf.........

The biggest benefit I have ever received from working in a bakery is that each day I have been allotted the opportunity to bring home loaves from the over bake or R&D piles.

Most of my life I utilized public transportation, and during that period, the Take Home Loaf seemed to have restored my faith in humanity.

Over the years, on my route home.....I have run into Nuns, my kids teachers, shortstops from my little league squad and more often than not.....

Sometimes I'll just see somebody who looks as if they could use a fresh baked loaf of bread, given to them at no charge, with no strings attached.

Yesterday, my bread club had a sourdough bake.

Actually I had a number of extra loaves.

Some were taken by club members, and then there was the loaf I dropped off at Finley's house along with poetry items.

That left me with one loaf.

My plans for that loaf was to give it to my son for Salami sandwiches, but sometimes the Bread Gods have other ideas.......

As I pulled into the lot of Korte's Super Market, another car slid into the parking stall at the exact same time.

The others driver popped out of his vehicle before I even turned off my ignition.

To my delight, my grocery neighbor was David Elliot.

David is the father of 3 sons, all of which I have coached at one time or another.

His son Max was the All conference Quarterback that took snaps from my son the year the Highland Scots was the city championship.

That was several years ago now, but "Man Alive" that was a powerful year.

Not just because of the football stuff, but for me....that would be the last year I'd have a kid living at my house.

Throughout the years, I loved giving loaves of bread to the Elliot's.

This family coveted my bread.

They are a family of bakers.

So as David and I are standing there in the parking lot, catching up on things, Klecko remembers the loaf of sourdough that's hiding in the back of the bread truck.

While David was in mid sentence, I turned my back.....grabbed the loaf, spun around.....and you should have seen the smile.

After handing it over to David, he pulled the loaf up to his face, buried his nose into the plastic, took a whiff, smiled again, and then kissed the bread.

"Sourdough......thank you so very much!" he replied.

I think the retail price for that loaf must be around 4 bucks, but when you hand over a free loaf of bread to somebody, the result is priceless.

Well L.A.B. Rats......that's all I got for now, keep your fingers crossed on Tuesday morning, and Pollacks and Nuns.....get busy on those prayer chains.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Rusks on the Black Sea

A few years ago, I was working at the Gelendzhik Bakery, down in the southwestern part of Russia, just off of the Black Sea.

The plant was huge.

H-U-G-E......I tell you.

From what I was told, this building was created to build tanks prior to one of the World Wars.

My interpreter was Jenya, and on one occasion when we walked by a huge wooden cooling rack, my Russian friend asked...

"Daniel, do you like these rusks, they are very popular in Russia?"

Secretly I kinda had to laugh.

Across the globe, often times people view America as a front runner in culinary fields, and maybe with good reason, but one thing for sure...American bakers don't have a naming system for baked products.

How can they? More often than not, any baked good worth eating originated in Europe.

By definition, a "RUSK" is something baked through, something that ends up crisp.

I think the term derived in Spain...was it "Rusca or Rosca?"....something like that.

Technically a slice of toast could qualify as a rusk.

Golden brown,crisp, baked through...and often times...multiple times in the oven.

Although "Rusk" is an unbrella concept, there are many variations.

Russia's is more bread like, kinda like the Swedish crackers or German Zweiback.

In my opinion, the Italians and French have utilized this technology to the hilt.

Of course I'm referring to Bicotti (in Italian terms) or Biscotte (if French).

The Italians seem to get the most credit when biscotti / rusks come up, and you know how much Klecko hates giving credit to the French, but if I were honest.....I think the Frogs are the front runners in this field.

If for no other reason, my French baking friends know the value of incorperating booze into their Biscotte.

One of the best pieces I've ever tasted actually was presented to me right here in Saint Paul. One of the Chefs at an event center gave me a small slice that looked quite plain, but the flavor kicked my teeth in.

Dude laced this stuff with Pernod and I gotta tell was like angels feathers fluttering in my mouth.

Anyways, for those of you who are new to baking...if my industries terminology confuses you, don't worry about it.

I've been doing this a lifetime, and to baker has been big enough, or bright enough to get our industries product descriptions on the same page.

*Don't forget...Klecko has another Blog Site entitled POETS ARE LAME (and other things Mike Finley has taught me) hosted on Blogger.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Bakers Hate Mitt Romney

Los Angelos Times / Morgan Little

A Pennsylvania bakery teased by presidential candidate Mitt Romney for cookies that looked like “they came from the local 7-Eleven bakery” has turned a joke that fell flat into a marketing opportunity.

During a campaign event in Bethel Park, Pa., this week, Romney sat down with locals, took a look at the cookies they’d baked for him and offered a joking response.

“I’m not sure about these cookies. Did you make those cookies?” he asked the women around him. “You didn’t, did you? No. No. They came from the local 7-Eleven bakery or wherever.”

Romney was not serious. But some of the folks at Bethel Bakery, which baked the cookies, didn’t find Romney’s remarks humorous.

“We wanted him to be welcomed with the best in the burg, and he had no idea, this guy has no idea how beloved this institution is that provided these cookies,” Bethel Bakery owner John Walsh said in an interview with ABC affiliate WTAE-TV out of Pittsburgh.

“It seemed like maybe he should have tasted them first before making the assumption,” Julie Lytle, who handles marketing for Bethel Bakery, said.

But the bakery took Romney’s joke and ran with it, launching a “CookieGate” promotion that gives customers a free half-dozen cookies for each dozen they purchase.

“We’re just having fun with it,” Lytle told CNN.

Walsh got the last word on the matter, telling the Wall Street Journal, “Let him eat cake next time.”

The Democratic National Committee also is trying to exploit Romney’s comment, with mixed results. The DNC is trying to build Twitter momentum on the #cookiegate hashtag and is sending out its own memes on the topic. But so far the hashtag has prompted as many remarks detailing Obama’s dog eating in Indonesia as a child as it has jokes about Romney’s awkwardness on the campaign trail.


Klecko enters into the Blog Site now.........

Ya know what I like about this story?

It starts off with a high profile person, in this case Mitt Romney trying to relate to "Blue Collar" workers.

Mitt didn't walk into the room and think to himself......

"How can I be a complete A-Hole and piss these people off."

No, in fact he attempted to do the oppisite.

In some respect its a fun read because the buffoon in the story is running for President of the United States, but I must confess, this ignorant additude is far to common, not just with people in the upper castes of society, but all of us.

Let's face it, Mitt meant no harm, but when you start lobbing jokes like grenades,you damn well better know what (or who) the targets are that you are throwing at.

I know zilch about Mitt, but by reading this story, it is obvious that he has never cooked or baked, if he had...he would have known that somebody went through alot of effort to put "what he thought was a gas station cookie" in his hands.

Maybe that person who made this welcoming treat had to get a relative to watch a sick kid who had to stay home from school.

I could list 1000 things that hopefully would make Mitt feel grateful for the bounty he receaved, but most of you get this, so I won't insult you by being redundant.

But as you should know by now....Your favorite baker started off his career by working in a plant that serviced the Super America gas staions that canvas the entire Twin Cities.

However, Mitt's response isn't typical of "People of Privilege", trust me...speaking w/o thinking trasends all boundries.

There are people on the opposite side of the spectrum that will insult you with their "Hillbilly" comments as well.The rich and powerful don't have a stranglehold on being ungrateful.

Wasn't it cool how the staff from this bakery in "PA" at first took it personally, as any artisan should?

But after a little time passed, this staff chose not to let ignorance get them down. Instead they ran in the other direction.

(Are you ready for this??? LOL) Life gave them a lemon, and they made lemonade.

Food Servers Workers can be diva's, I'll give you that, but this story confirms a belief that has always dwelled in my heart.

Bakers are bullet proof!

You can't touch us!

*Don't forget, Klecko has a POETS ARE LAME (and other things Mike Finley has taught me) column on Blogger as well.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Great Bundt Pan Debate (feel free to chime in)

It all started last week.

It all started when Kim Ode and I went on a date to the Nordic Ware factory outlet.

The state I live in....Minnesota, well it often likes to give off this vibe that it's progressive.

But when you think about it, and I mean think really hard....

The only 2 things worth a rats a** that have come out of this state are Bob Dylan and the Bundt Pan.

Now when your city or state is the mecca or HQ for an important idea, don't you usually assume that the envirement that surrounds it will be impressive?

As I steered the bread truck into the Nordic Ware parking lot, Kim started pointing to a cluster of signs.

"The Geese can't read these stay off the grass."

And yes, sure enough....a gaggle of geese were waddling to and fro, as we did our best to stay on the narrow side walk that lead us into the show room.

Let's face it, Klecko's a guy, maybe even a "Guy's guy", but you would think that by definition that he'd have to be a little underwhelmed, or reserved entering a space filled with kitchen trinkets.

But was like the scene in Wizard of Oz when everything switched from black & white to color.

Everything was all metallic and new looking.

Ode looks at me, and the both of us chuckled as we started off by looking at the pans we'd never buy.....

Battle Ship Pan

Butterfly Pan

Caterpillar Pan

Ice Cream Cone Pan


But then we headed over to the standard fare, and Klecko is wearing his baking uniform, while Ode is talking "industry gossip", so the rooms soul employee started stalking us to catch an inside scoop.

There was a 1/2 dozen wealthy looking old people, but the lady left them alone. I think she wanted dirt LOL, as you can imagine....this made me like her all the more.

Anyways, I bought the "Anniversary and Bavarian" pans, and Ode got the Bavarian as well.

A couple days later, when I opened my Bundt bag, the people from Nordic Ware were kind enough to give me a "Helpful Hints For Using Your Bundt Pan" handout.

So as I started reading this, one paragraph is written in bold letters.....



Klecko's not buying it.

The handout goes on telling us to use "Wondra" or any cooking spray that also contains flour in it as well. I guess this is the modern version of hand greasing, or painting and then splashing some flour inside the pan.

I have never had problems using regular baking spray.

It works perfect if you know how to use it, but who am I to argue with the Bundt Pan moguls.

So I called Ode and told her of what the hand out was saying, and she sat in silence for a second before replying....

"Oh....I don't think I agree with that at all. Every time I use that flour/spray my can seizes."

I chimed in by agreeing, and noting that I have thrown away a dozen cans of "Wondra" for the same reason. In fact.....I'm not sure I've ever drained more than 1/2 the can before pitching it.

Well then a couple days pass, Klecko is sitting at home and Googles some combination of words like "Baking Spray / Flour", or some such thing and Sweet Lord of Warsaw.........

You would have thought I Googled how to dissolve the national debt, or asked if there was a God.

Dude.....people were getting all crazy defending how to prep their Bundt Pans, and it was like there simply couldn't be more than one had to do it "Exactly" like the woman on the thread told you, or your cake would die...or at least taste like crap.

Some people swore by buttering by hand and splashing with flour (as is Hennessy's fave method), while others splashed sugar or....get this, semolina flour.

Really, chocolate cake with semolina?


Then there was people who used paint brushes, people who used shortening, people that used cocoa....

I started to lament that Dr. Suess was dead, he could of so made a sequel to "Green Eggs and Ham" from this Bundt Cake controversy.

At first I considered that these Bundt Pan Prep Wars would just surface on the front Google pages, but that wasn't the case.

There was like a billion opinions, but a lot of those people were nimrods, you are not though, so if you would be so kind...

How do you L.A.B. Rats prep your Bundt Pans?

Oh yeah....if you want to tell us about what Nordic Ware products you use, shout at me.

*Don't forget, Klecko has another Blog hosted on Blogger entitled....POETS ARE LAME (and other things Mike Finley has taught me), if you have a moment....check it out.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

2 Nuns, a Harley and a Sheet Cake

A Pollack and a Mexican Nun walk into a bakery........

Sounds like a set up to a set up to an off colored joke huh?

The Polish Nun is the ranking Nun, and knowing that my veins are filled with Warsaw blood as well, she takes comfort in coming into the bakery and hitting me up for donations.

I've mentioned it before, I am pretty much through with the Catholic Church these days.

I don't wish them ill, but I don't feel good financing them in spite of "controversial cases" that are taking place.

When I hear, or no....when I see the Church prioritizing the safety of its children, I may reconsider.

However....I do have a dealio with the Polish Christ.

I will do my best to support Nuns to the best of my ability.

Klecko adores Nuns.

So now The Pollack and Mexican Nun are sitting in my office. They have a non Nun woman who drives them around, she's with us too.

The Pollack eyes the big bottle of Jack Daniels on my desk, then turns to her Mexican colleague, and the both of them giggle little teenagers.

The Pollack tells me that they are just coming from a Harley Davidson dealership.

My penguin friends were hitting up the bikers to donate a bike for an upcoming Nun Raffle.

When I asked if the guys ponied up and gave them a "Hog", the Nuns smiled, then giggled again.

I didn't know what that meant, but I wouldn't have time to find out because....

The Mexican Nun told me that I was going to be getting off a lot easier, all I needed to do was provide sheet cake for 150 people.

Sometimes when I donate to groups, its on behalf of the bakery, but in terms of religion, or religious causes....I think employees need to take care of those themselves.

The last thing I want to do is be responsible for which God is getting the most free product.

So after we settled that stuff, the 4 of us engaged in "Girl Talk" and during this period I explained that in less than 2 weeks, on Tuesday May 22nd in fact, Klecko was having surgery on his nose.

I'll spare you guys the details, but the Last American Baker had a tough winter, and exhausted every course to being able to breath, but nothing solved my issues.

I told the Nuns that Mr. Doctor was going to insert 4 inch rods inside of my skull, and they would have to remain there for 48 hours.

I am not looking forward to that.

So Friday, Hennessy is sitting in the our office, across from me, and the phone rings.

It was the Pollack Nun.

I am told that there is going to be a special Mass said for me on the morning of my operation.

It's not a life threatening procedure,but I feel comforted none the less....I can't tell you why.

Now the Pollack asks me what my Christian name is.

I tell her, Daniel McGleno.

"Daniel with an EL or AL?" she asks.

"EL" I respond.

Then I told the Pollack that I loved her, and she told me that she loved me as well.

So now I hang up the phone, Hennessy gives me "The Look", but I don't know why.

Hennessy b.t.w. is a good-good Catholic girl, but something isn't sitting right with her, finally she reveals her concern.

"What is your Christian name? They don't need to ask that. God knows who you are."

I just smiled at the Pastry Chef. Even though she is a smarter person and a better Catholic, I still schooled her.....

"Yeah, they know that God knows my name, but those Nuns love me, and just needed an excuse to let me know that they were going to pray for my sorry soul."

In closing, Christian's, Catholic's, Jew's and Buddhists....hear me well.

You don't have to be a believer, but if I've learned just one thing in life it's...hook up Nuns, and Karma will kiss you on the lips.

Don't believe me?

I triple dog dare you to bake a cake, bring it to a nun, and just watch how wonderful your life will become.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Minnesota State Fair - Saint Agnes Demo Kitchen Roster

2012 Minnesota State Fair - Creative Activities / Saint Agnes Baking Demo Kitchen
Hosted by Saint Paul’s own…..KLECKO

Thurs Aug 23
11 - Kim Ode – Rhubarb Meringue Bars
1 – Lee Svitak Dean – Thin Mint Bars
3 – Arlene Coco – Jambalaya Hot Dish
5 – Sarah Stonich – Charlie Tuna Bites The Noodle Hot Dish

Fri Aug 24
11 – Pat Sinclair – Scandinavian Tosca Squares
1 – Pat Sinclair – Orange Bundt Cake
3 – Eversharp Knives – Hot Dish Prep
5 – Ann Burckhardt – Hot Dish Heaven

Sat Aug 25
11 – Lia Syse – Apple Bundt
1 – David S. Cargo – Molasses Oatmeal Chewies
3 – Klecko – Irish Car Bomb Bundt
5 – Monica – The Hot Dish

Sunday Aug 26
11 – Klecko – Irish Car Bomb Bundt
1 – Hennessy – Pineapple Bars
3 – Kate T. Moore – Community Hot Dish
5 – Monica – The Hot Dish

Mon Aug 27
11 – Kid Mitch – Tatar Tot Hot Dish
1 – Dara Syrkin – Cran / Wild Rice Hot Dish
3 – Laura Bender – Maple Pecan Bundt
5 – Laura Bender – Maple Pecan Bundt

Tues Aug 28
11 – Kelly Branscomb – Minne Hot Dish
1 – N.M. Kelby – Blonde Zucchini Butterscotch Bars
3 – Patrick Pfundstein – Designing Award Winning Bars
5 – Debora Drower – Church Basement Desserts

Wed Aug 29
11 – Hillary Robertson – Samoa Bars
1 – Mary Klecko – P.B.C. Bars
3 – Laura Salveson – Tunnel of Fudge Bundt
5 – Mary Klecko – Chicken Noodle Hot Dish

Thurs Aug 30
11 - Laurie Lynn McCann – Classic 7 Layer Bars
1 – Beth Wright – BBQ / Cornbread Hot Dish
3 – Sue Doeden – Honey Date Bars
5 – Sue Doeden – Honey Date Bars

Fri Aug 31
11 – Tami Cabrera – Aunties Rum & Pecan Bundt
1 - Tami Cabrera – Aunties Rum & Pecan Bundt
3 – Deanna Sande – Kings Ranch Hot Dish
5 – Klecko – Pirate Bundt

Sat Sept 1
11 – Marie Porter – Spirited Bundt Baking
1 – Leah Nicholson – Mrs. Minnesota Hot Dish
3 – Htom Trites – Lime Pie & Cherry Bars
5 – Htom Trites – Understanding Bundt Pans

Sun Sept 2
11 – Darlene Anderson – Banana P-Nut Butter Bars
1 – Joan Gerland – Wild Rice Hot Dish
3 – Darlene Anderson – Banana P-Nut Butter Bars
5 – Klecko – Irish Car Bomb Bundt

Mon Sept 3
11 – Kim Ode – Tunnel of Rhubarb Bundt
1 – Kim Ode – Rhubarb Hot Dish
3 – Klecko – Irish Car Bomb Bundt
5 – Klecko – Blue Ribbon Kitchen Poems

Questions or Comments?

Klecko is (651) 329 4321

Episode #300 - Confessions,The Gulag and Fish Pie

Dear L.A.B. Rats,

I hope you will pardon my lengthy absence, perhaps you will allow me to explain.

Several days ago, I pulled into work, and before I could even check my E-Mails....crisis had broken out.

One of our biggest accounts forgot to order, and it was pivotal that they had 10 dozen whole wheat hamburger buns within 2 hours.

Now my boys are good, but there simply was no way we could mix, shape, proof, bake, slice, package and deliver that product in such a short window of time,we needed to outsource.

When a customer makes the mistake, they don't get picky, they just want a product that will meet their specs and cover their plates.

I wasn't 100% sure where to find what they needed, but I hopped in the bread truck and headed to Super Target.

While I was en route, I called my friend (and faithful reporter) Kim Ode. One of the first things she asked was when was I going to drop my next installment of L.A.B.?

I explained my next post (this post) would be #300, and whenever I write a Blog Post that lands on an even hundred, I usually liked the piece to be important, touching or meaningful.

On Episode #100 and #200....the Angels of Warsaw simply slid columns of substance into my lap.

But now....TICK-TOCK........TICK TOCK.

There simply wasn't any divine inspiration.

You can't push a blog post if it falls on the even hundred.

Not only is it bad luck, but you are cheating your viewership if you do.

Then Kim Ode states.....

"300 blog posts huh? That actually is impressive Klecko. In my field, we'd say that number constitutes a BODY OF WORK".

I liked the sound of that, but have you ever seen those cartoons where the lead character needs to make a choice? and then there is a little angel on one shoulder, and a little devil on the other?

Kim Ode is w/o a doubt my writing angel, but my writing devil.....well that would be my writing teacher Mike Finley.

Ode encourages, but Mike pushes me to be a better writer, at all costs.

In many ways Mike Finley reminds me of Master Dick Kiwis, my first Bread Master.

It isn'r easy to help people raise their bar. people are not constructed with bullet proof emotions. When they put effort into something, and value the outcome...well it's not in most people nature to accept something like..."There are a few good points here, but you fell short really should consider....comments like that.

But if I've learned anything, I've learned that my efforts shine all the more when I sand off the rough corners of my perception.

Over the last year Finley pointed out to me that I have a tendency to not only star in most of my stories, but I also write my scripts to end with me being the hero.

He's correct, I like that.

I want to be the hero.

But Finley knows more than I. He knows that vanity is transparent and self gratification gets old quick.

"Point the spotlight on others Dan, make sure you focus on their beauty. Don't try to be a hero, just be who you are." he tells me.

Klecko may not be the brightest guy in the world, but he is smart enough to listen to those that he knows are smarter than him.

So before I switch gears, I'd like to thank all you crazy kids for supporting this Blog Site as long as you have.

Your comments and insight have inspired me more than you know.

With that said, I'd like to dedicate Episode #300 to my dear friends Kim Ode and Mike Finley.

A guy doesn't get enough oppurtunities in this world to brag about the people he loves the most, but you guys are both smarter than me so let me pose one question to the both of you.

Where would Klecko be today...tomorrow, had he never had the fortune of making your acquaintance?

Subbmitted for your approval in 3-2-1.....................

The Camera

So there goes Klecko...walking down a dirt road in Siberia.

He's north of pretty much everything.

North of modern civilization, north of the Road of Bones, even north of the Gulag camps. I'm with an interpreter, and she tells me that we are entering the ghetto of the Diamond city.

Hanging from my wrist is a disposable camera that I purchased at a Walgreen's back home.

About 1/2 a block up, I noticed a young woman...20 something. This chick was the resident Arctic - punk rock girlio.

She had zebra spandex pants, a leopard shirt, the sun glasses Lou Reed wore when he was with the Velvets, and a green Fidel Castro utility hat.

This girl is also holding a chihuahua in her arms,holding it like it was the Christ child, and now she begins walking in our direction.

My interpreter is kinda straight laced, and the look on her eyes tells me that she isn't frightened, but maybe a little concerned.

Punk Rock girl stand in front of me, she looks up....she looks down. Then she points at my camera and speaks instructions to my hired companion.

So now my interpreter turns to me and explains that this young woman has requested that I take her picture.

Now I start thinking....

"Geesh, c'mon woman, it's a disposable camera. We can't even be certain the photos will turn out.", and then I started to wonder if I actually would bother printing off the picture, and then trudge down to the post office and actually mail the stupid thing.

I mean I shouldn't commit to something that I wasn't going to follow through on...right?

So next I explain to the interpreter that I would have to get these photos developed in America, and I couldn't guarantee that I'd be able to send a finished picture back to this location.

Then the interpreter looked paused, at first she looked confused and then embarressed because she realized I wasn't trying to figure out shipping logistics, I was just being thoughtless and lazy.

With sadness on her face she responded....

"Daniel, this woman does not ask for you to give her anything. She just wants to express what an honor it is to have American in her village. She has never met anybody from your country before. she wanted you to have a picture of a gift for you. It is to say....she wanted to send you home with her soul."

Here this woman is willing to give me her soul.....and busy me wasn't sure if he had time to lick a stamp and drop an envelope into a mailbox.

Even though my apathy embarressed me, my self loathing was outweighed by the grace and generosity that the Siberian Punk had bestowed upon me.

With that said.....I turned to the interpreter and asked....

"How did she know where I was from? I could of just as easily come from London or Australia?"

The interpreter laughed and answered...

"You are silly, Americans are so obvious."

Then she laughed some more.

6 years have passed since that day, and on more than one occasion, I have wondered what the Siberean Punk is doing.

And each time I look at her picture, I smile.

I think it's people like her that Finley would encourage me to focus on, people who are kind enough to share their soul.

The following recipe may seem a little odd to you, but when you are in a land where food is scarce, the following is a welcomed meal.



First the pie crust, I pulled a recipe off the Crisco site. Many people argue the fat content in pie crusts, all butter crusts are becoming popular, but I've found that if you do that, butter bleeds out quicker than shortening, and your pie crust won't have good structure between the layers.

On the few times I've even bother to jerk around making pie crusts for home use (I'm not opposed to purchasing premade)I've blended the 2 fat sources, but remember.....keep the crust chilled as long as possible.'s what Crisco and Pillsbury says.......

•1 1/3 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1/2 stick well-chilled Crisco® Baking Sticks All-Vegetable Shortening
•OR 1/2 cup well-chilled Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
•3 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water

•2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
•1 teaspoon salt
•3/4 stick well-chilled Crisco® Baking Sticks All-Vegetable Shortening
•OR 3/4 cup well-chilled Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
•4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

•2 2/3 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
•1 teaspoon salt
•1 stick well-chilled Crisco® Baking Sticks All-Vegetable Shortening
•OR 1 cup well-chilled Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
•6 to 10 tablespoons ice cold water


1.BLEND flour and salt in medium mixing bowl.

2.CUT chilled shortening into 1/2-inch cubes. Cut in chilled shortening cubes into flour mixture, using a pastry blender, in an up and down chopping motion, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some small pea-sized pieces remaining.

3.SPRINKLE half the maximum recommended amount of ice cold water over the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir and draw flour from bottom of bowl to the top, distributing moisture evenly into flour. Press chunks down to bottom of bowl with fork. Add more water by the tablespoon, until dough is moist enough to hold together when pressed together.

TIPTest dough for proper moistness by squeezing a marble-sized ball of dough in your hand. If it holds together firmly, do not add any additional water. If the dough crumbles, add more water by the tablespoonful, until dough is moist enough to form a smooth ball when pressed together.

4.SHAPE dough into a ball for single pie crust. Divide dough in two for double crust or double deep dish crust, one ball slightly larger than the other. Flatten ball(s) into 1/2-inch thick round disk(s).

TIPFor ease in rolling, wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

5.ROLL dough (larger ball of dough for double crust pie) from center outward with steady pressure on a lightly floured work surface (or between two sheets of wax or parchment paper) into a circle 2-inches wider than pie plate for the bottom crust. Transfer dough to pie plate by loosely rolling around rolling pin. Center the rolling pin over the pie plate, and then unroll, easing dough into pie plate.

6.For a SINGLE pie crust, trim edges of dough leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold edge under. Flute dough as desired. Bake according to specific recipe directions.

7.For a DOUBLE pie crust, roll larger disk for bottom crust, trimming edges of dough even with outer edge of pie plate. Fill unbaked pie crust according to recipe directions. Roll out smaller dough disk. Transfer dough carefully onto filled pie. Trim edges of dough leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold top edge under bottom crust. Press edges together to seal and flute as desired. Cut slits in top crust or prick with fork to vent steam. Bake according to specific recipe directions.

Two Methods for Pre-baking Pie Crusts (Cream Pies)

1.Pre-baking without weights: Thoroughly prick bottom and sides of unbaked pie dough with fork (50 times) to prevent it from blistering or rising. Bake crust in lower third of oven, at 425°F, 10-12 minutes or until edges and bottom are golden brown.

2.Pre-baking with weights: Thoroughly prick bottom and sides of unbaked pie dough with fork (50 times) to prevent it from blistering or rising. Chill or freeze for 30 minutes. Line pie dough snugly with foil or parchment paper. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Reduce oven to 350°F. Bake 5-10 minutes or until edges and bottom are golden brown.



Raw Fish....Carp and Sturgeon are the most popular. i guess it goes w/o saying that you should use the filet. Bones and pie
are not a good combo.


Black Pepper

Onions 1-2 big or 2-3 medium

Olive Oil

Bay Leaves

Rice 1 1/2 - 2 cups

So assuming you figured out how to make a pie crust, you will line your pie plate with one crust, and reserve the second.

Next you'll want to salt your fish (if you want to use a brine, that's cool) and then pack the pieces snug against each other.

Then pepper to taste, Klecko utilizes this option more than most. with the eventual fish juice/grease you'll find more pepper is better than less.

Then I take my onions (which I have sauteed in olive oil) and place them in layers over the fish.

To be authentic,our next step is to layer bay leaves, but I have always found them to be pungent.

If you are doing a Salute to Arctic cooking, use them...but if you want it to taste better, I'd suggest Italian seasonings, or some other such spice(s).

Next, cover this with a genorous layer of cooked rice.

Some people use white, some use brown.....not a big deal, no big diff.

Next cover this with the 2nd pie crust, and when you do, weld that sucker on there LOL, you want it to be tight. Nobody wants wicked hot fish grease splashing their oven walls.

One that pie crust top is on, I pat in firm with my hand.

This is nessasary because you'll want to remove the air between the ingredients and the top pie crust.

During the baking the 2 will do everything to seperate from each other.

Now, place the pie on a sheet pan and slide it into an oven set for 350 degree (F).

Your bake time should be between 35-45 minutes.

And b.t.w., fish pie pairs well with vodka...just saying.

In your service.....the Last American Baker

Friday, May 4, 2012

Death to the Yankees?

If a guy had a chance to eliminate Hitler, would the world have viewed that guy as a murderer..or a bad man?

How about if a woman fought back and slayed Jack the Ripper to get free...would her action(s) be acceptable?


Last night Klecko came home from a friends house, Sue McGleno was out of town, so it was just your favorite baker alone with his 4 dogs.

When Sue McGleno is out of town, or just absent from the house, I never turn off the TV. So as I walked into the living room, I saw mayhem taking place on a baseball field.

The camera did a close up on Yankee superstar A-Rod.

He had a look of abject horror on his face, and then he started running.

Knowing that they were in Kansas City, I didn't rule out the possibility of a sniper, or thugs rioting.

If you recall a couple years ago, a hillbilly tandem....father & son rushed the field and beat the crap out of the first base ump.

Later that summer, somebody took pot shots into the stadium with a 22.

But now I see A-Rod, standing over some other Yankee stretched out in pain.

I couldn't make out who it was at first,but when I eventually saw the #42, I realized it was their king.

The unflappable closer, Mariano Rivera.

Derek Jeter joined the crowd as well, he stood over his comrade of 20 years with a sick look on his face, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi looked like he want to cry.

I guess Rivera was shagging fly balls during batting practice and caught a spike in the grass, or warning track. He twisted his knee, and hours later they discovered he tore his ACL.

I am always glad when bad news befalls the Yankee's, but I took no joy in seeing this.

Rivera was hoisted onto a cart that cruised him off the field.

You could see tears welling up in his eyes, not from the pain, but because there has been speculation that this was going to be his last year with the Bronx Bombers.

During the commercial break, I caught my breath, and my mind flashed back to the play offs several years ago.

The Yankees came to the Twin Cities to battle my Minnesota Twins.

Everybody was in a fever, playing the Yankees is big enough during the regular season, but in the playoffs, the anti goes up.

So there I am at the bakery, the phone rings from a catering company, and they apologized for calling late but they needed something like 20 dozen sourdough dollar rolls.

"Sorry brah, 2 p.m. is the deadline...rules are rules" I said.

Now a silence, more silence...then dude responds...

"I feel ya Klecko, but if you could make an exception, this is a huge opportunity, we're catering a gig for the Yankees tomorrow."


A sinister grin took over my face.

If a guy had a chance to eliminate Hitler, would the world have viewed that guy as a murderer..or a bad man?

How about if a woman fought back and slayed Jack the Ripper to get free...would her action(s) be acceptable?

Klecko never took one of those doctors oaths...LOL, I was in a at least Ex-Lax the crap out of the boys in pin stripes.

A boy can dream huh?

Of course I didn't do something awful like that, and my hometown squad suffered from my niceness.

The game went to extra innings and Gardy left Twins closer....Joe Nathan in for a 3rd inning, of course we lost.

Anyways, it cracks me up that I had to feed the demographic I most hate on this planet....

Polish Christ forgive me.....Klecko fed the Yankees.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Water / Flour / Yeast / Salt...and Brains

Good Evening World,

Can you believe it L.A.B. Rats, we are heading in on close to our 300th Blog Post (this is #298).

On the gossip front, what can I say?

In the last 6 months the Russian and Ukrainian hits on this site have gone through the roof. Right now the Motherland ranks 4th in viewership behind the USA, Germany and Canada.....but watch out you Canucks, the Russians are right on your tail and about to pass you.

Prevet Comrades!

Also I would like to reiterate, if you have not checked out Freerk's Blog Site entitled....THE BREAD LAB, you really should. He has it posted on Facebook as well.

That Blog Site has been a source of insperation to me.

I am getting to the point in life where I do not have many goals, but one of them would be to go to Holland and bake with Freerk.

When I get to post #301, I might start a new theme, if any of you have topics desired, just shout at me.

Anyways, I do like round numbers, they can serve as starting gates or finishing lines.

Well, with that said, submitted below is yet another rant that I wrote for FOOD SERVICE NEWS, which is a rag that gets sent out to all of the big fish in the Minnesota Hospitality scene.

Mostly people with purchasing power.

They also are online, and if you ever get a moment, you should check them out..if for no other reason, to read Mike Mitchelson's column.

In addition to being the pub's editor (and a fantastic job he does at that) the man is a great writer that touches informitive topics, more often than not, before they hit the main stream.....

OK kids, today we are going to talk about why some of you have found greatness, and what some of you might want to consider....if you want to climb the ladder.

Separating from Colleagues

About a year ago, I received an e-mail indicating that Peter Nowiki was leaving his full time post at the Super Mom’s baking plant in Saint Paul Park. His workmates put together a lavish send off and invited many of the people that had worked with Pete over the course of his career.

I had mixed emotions about attending. I knew it would be rude if I didn’t go and pay my respects, but at the same time, I was nervous because he was the last of my mentors, and it looked like he might be getting out of the show for good.
In a way, I felt as if I were burying a Father.

When I got inside, there were so many people wanting to speak with him, I had to wait to get a viewing. It was kind of like trying to talk to Don Corleone on the day of his daughter’s wedding.
When my opportunity came, Pete assured me that he wasn’t ditching me 100%, not yet. Instead he thought he might get into some part time consulting.

Well, just the other day I received news that Mr. Nowicki was elected as President of UMBA.
For those of you who don’t follow the baker’s guild, UMBA is short for the Upper Midwest Baking Association.
To be assigned to this post isn’t just an honor; it’s also a lot of hard work and responsibility.
The more I started thinking about Pete’s appointment, the more I began to reminisce.

I’m pretty confident that today I am close to the same age he was when he took me under his wing.
With that in mind, I began to realize that in every mentorship, if the process goes as planned, there is a point where the positions of student & master will invert.

I’m not certain we are at that stage yet, but since my Bread Master is wading into new territory, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind him of some of the basics he taught me.
The first time I met Pete, it was 3 O’clock in the morning. I remember I was standing towards the back of the plant when I noticed a burly silhouette walking towards me…
“The names Peter Nowiki, I’ve just moved here from Milwaukee, and I’m going to be the guy you report to…everyday.”
Then I noticed he took and interest in my shoes. I had one red / canvas Chuck Taylor on one foot, and a purple one on the other.My new boss continued…

“What are you hoping to learn while working here?” he asked.
Without flinching I responded…

“I just want to become a solid baker. I want to mix well, run an efficient oven, and maybe work my way up the ladder.”
Pete stared at me the way fathers do when they realize this might be one of those rare occasions where their son was being sincere.

“How serious are you about advancing?” he asked.

Basically I told him I’d do anything, and that’s when the tension broke because he grew a quick smirk and told me for starters I needed to wear matching shoes, and the color of those shoes shouldn’t be a shade that’s found in a rainbow.
Next he informed me that it wasn’t his place to tell people how to live their lives, but then he hinted that if he wanted people to take him serious, he probably wouldn’t have a mullet like mine. Eight hours later, I rocked my first flat top in over a decade.

The training continued…

“I’ll tell you truthfully Danny, cosmetic features certainly do have a bearing, but if you really want to separate from your colleagues, the formula is simple. If you want to advance past other people who are vying for the same position, all you need to do is show up to work every day, keep your work station cleaner than anybody else, and impress management with any skills that revolve around organization.”

That was it. At first I thought he was pulling my leg.
But now that I look back, truer words have never been spoken because these are the elements that opportunities are made from.
Sure, there are a million other skills that a young baker needs to acquire before they make their way up the ladder, things like production, costing, communication, etc.

But those duties are seldom given to employees that don’t rise to the occasion.
Anytime somebody would enter Pete’s office to voice a complaint against another employee, he was famous for saying…

“Don’t worry about the other guy, worry about yourself, and remember…cream always floats to the top.”
Attendance, Cleanliness and Organization, if you think about it carefully you might agree with me that organization is the umbrella for these three virtues.

For the longest time I thought peoples lack of organization was due to laziness, but recently I have been exposed to some pretty alarming information that makes me think my generalization might not be well founded..
Many scientists are now subscribing to the theory that organization is hard wired into our DNA.

Most of us are familiar with the seven stages of grieving. Well, adolescent development has a similar structure, but according to the data I researched, they claimed that organization is the last level in a youth’s development.
However unlike the grieving scenario, complete steps of children’s development can be passed by. Many of the leading authorities claimed up to 40% of kids never plug into gaining organizing skills ever.
Organization can be bypassed and the affected youth will never know it.

Often time’s people simply believe that organization is automatic, or an entitlement.
Dr Jay Giedd did an interview on PBS’s Frontline and claimed that by age 6 the brain is already 95% its adult size. But the gray matter or thinking part of the brain continues to thicken throughout childhood as the brain gets extra connections.
During our twenties we need to prune back that gray matter like a gardener works on a hedge. If we don’t, our ideas will become overrun, or choke each other out.

This pruning is done consciously by embracing numbers and systems.
The part of the brain that is last to develop is the front cortex, and sure enough, this is the part that focuses on judgment, organization, planning and strategizing.

So if organization isn’t predisposed in your make up, does that mean all hope is lost for you?
Dr. Geoffrey Putt of Akron Children’s Hospital says there are ways all of us can sharpen that part of our mind.

*Use Checklists
*Establish Routines
*Implement Reminder Systems
*Be Consistent

Maybe I’m getting a little more scientific than you desire, but indulge me just this one time.
Pete Nowiki is back in the game, and I just want to send congratulations, and let him know that I still value everything he taught me.

Good luck Sir, and Give them heck.