Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Best Brownie Recipe Ever?

Perception is a funny word isn't it?

Have I mentioned that Klecko likes girls?

When they talk.....I love to listen to them.

When woman talk about brownies....I love to watch them.

Girlfriend Nation practically goes balistic at the mere thought of the word..........


I have known rich girls, poor girls, happy girl and yes....even a few sad girls, but if there was just one thing that God put on this planet to unite their souls.......

One common denominator that levels the entire feminine playing field........

It would have to be brownies.

Now the last thing I want to do is offend somebody and come across as sexist, but I'm just a guy who has baked for 30 years.

Over this time I'm sure I've met some guys who have "liked" brownies, but they simply don't worship them like my girlfriends do.

Maybe that's because brownies may be this single greatest thing to entice ladies.....

Excuse me my love.....what can I get you, diamonds, money or brownies?

The answer really could be any of the 3, but most Klecko girlfriends place brownies on the top of their priority pyramid.

So today, I pose to you....

What constitutes the "Perfect" brownie?

I could tell you the observations I have made, but I would be intrigued to hear it straight from your mouths.

The first question most people ask when broaching the great brownie debate......

"Fudgy or Cakey"?

I a  "simple boy" prefer the cakey version.

Often times when you run across a brownie recipe, you can use it's generic meassurments and just do a little tweaking of your own.

The fudgey brownies have eggs, or a higher egg ratio, so when looking at your recipe, realize that you can alter your texture by the inclusion (or leaving out) of eggs.

Bake time is another big deal.

In almost every form of baking, the general rule of thumb to determine when a "cake" or "quickbread" type object is done, that we should insert a toothpick in the middle of the pan, and when we pull it out clean....the product is ready.

However....however....many of my female brownie zealots will pull their brownies while beads of cake still cling to the tooth pick.

Obviously one doesn't want their treat to be raw......but with a little practice you can learn to cut 3-5 minutes off your "standard" bake time to increase your goo factor.

Others will pull their brownies out of the oven when the toothpick pulls clean in the portion of the brownie that rests at the pans perimeter.

For cakey brownies, it is also smart to employ some kind of energy source. Most peeps use B-Powder

While Fudgy Girl will often times reduce her energy by 1/2....or if she is a real Rebel-Rebel, she'll omit the entire enrgy source alltogether.


What about it?

Well Cake Girl likes hers to be room temp, soft and pliable, where the Fudgy Girl simply melts it to create a complete fudge like texture.....

We could talk about nuts......

We could talk about whether we should add them or not.

We could also talk about whether we would roast those nuts or not. It certainly would enhance the flavor.

But wait, thats right....todays modern woman often times refuses to roast nuts because this process strips the nut of much of it nutritional value.

Anyways, it's nice to have a moment alone with you ladies, I'm going to leave now and turn the microphone over to you guys.

That way you can talk about your decadent comfort food, without any stupid boys around.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Robert Redford / Cherry Cognac Bundt Recipe

Danny Klecko is not the brightest bulb you've ever warmed up to.

And there might be many topics that he may not be able to shed light on.

However, if there is one thing he can illuminate......

Klecko is a Master of Observation.

Friday night, 9:30 p.m. to be precise I was rifling through the channels and stopped @ Turner Classic Network.

Lo and Behold, they were running one of my all time favorite movies ever.....


And it was just starting, the credits were still rolling.

If you haven't seen this film, too bad, it really is wonderful.

It was released I think in 1976 or 77, and the premise was 2 guys......


Are investigative reporters, and these two reporters were the upstarts that blew the whole Water Gate thing open.

Is there anything more rewarding than watching persistence pay off?

Ecspecially when that persistence is faced head on by insurmountable odds.

I usually see this movie once or twice a year, and at least one time during the film, my mind leaves the turmoil of Washington D.C. and heads back to my life in the Twin Cities.

"I wonder if my friend Kim Ode's work area is like that of Woodward and Bernstein's?" I ask myself, knowing full well that her employer "StarTribune" might have made several adjustments.

Adjustments like banning smoking in the newsroom (however I have it on authority that the book review woman...Laurie Hertzel might be known to sneak a cig...

And I'll bet they might have even foregone typewriters for a newer invention called the computer.

But for whatever reason, the romantic fiber in the Klecko DNA strand really wants his friends at the paper to work in the old world setting.

In all the years I've known Kim, she has come to my office a million times.

She has baked with me in the plant 500 times......

But anytime Klecko has stopped by the Strib, he never ventures to go past the lobby.....

If you already have a utopian newsroom set up in your head....why risk misperceiving Utopia.

Yeah-Yeah....I regress......

So I'm watching the movie, and it occurs to me how good Dustin Hoffman is, some may state he steals the show.....And then in my mental warehouse I deduce this may be the only film in Klecko's Top 100 Movies list where Hoffman even makes an appearance.

Redford on the otherhand.......

He might be in 3 of my top 10 films ever.......




But then all of a sudden it was like the Angels of Warsaw shook my head to remove some rust, in hopes of giving me clarity.....and it did.

I don't know if you'll want to consider this an ephiphany....but I do

Robert Redford was in 3 of the top 10 films ever made on planet Earth.

That's 30% of the Klecko award winners, but then when you look at his other films.....

Films that he had to shoulder alone......they pretty much suck.

Some people are just meant to give their best performances in the company of others.

I just laid on the couch with Deedle - Deedle processing this, and it almost freaked me out.

But when lifes observations frighten me, more often than not....I retreat my mind to the kitchen to find a foot hold.

And this evening was no exception.

Some baking ingredients can kinda be like Robert Redford, great when accompanied by a carefully selected ingredient, but overpowering and out of control if left on it's own.

Cilantro would totally be a Robert Redford ingredient, great in Mexican dishes, but July-Hamper musty left alone.

I can see you knodding your head...LOL.

But that's more of a cooking ingredient.

In baking, I have always respected the power of cherry.

But often times I've wondered if by itself....cherry just might have too much power.

Often times when I deal with "tart" flavors, I try to really be thoughtful as to how I can delude that flavor w/o stripping it of it's integrity.

Recently, as some of you know, I've kinda been into Bundts.....

Submitted for your approval....

Chocolate - Cherry / Cognac Bundt

1 cup oil

1 cup water

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

Glug vanilla extract

1/3 cup cocoa

1 3/4 cup sugar

2 cup All Purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon b-soda

After setting these ingredients up.....

Wet with wet and dry with dry...........

Take one cup of dry cherry and soak them in Cognac.

Once the cherries cover with booze, step away and let them soak for around an hour.

If you soak shorter, you won't pick up optimum flavor, but if you soak much longer than an hour, the cherry will break down and shred.

So after preparing your pan......

Add alll the wet ingredients and mix.

Next add the dry ingredients and fold them in (don't overmix)

Finally....add your cherries last, and if you are shrewd.....reserve the cognac and blend it in with your glaze.

To revisit my point.......

When you take Tart Cherry and buffer it with Cocoa, Sour Cream, and Cognac....

You've domesticated the flavor and your palate need not worried about being accosted by savage flavors.

In closing....

Some might say that Redford's role in "The Natural" merited consideration for a film that he headlined alone....

I wouldn't know, I was busy staring at Kim Basinger!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Accounts - 7 Turkeys & 1 Cop

If  you've ever worked sales in the Hospitality Industry, you'll feel my pain when I describe to the rest of our viewership "New Account Applications".

Lately Klecko has been on the road drumming up accounts.

Sometimes I get leads, and other times I simply make cold calls.

Early last week, Cowboy Bill (our bakeries Office Manager) gave me an address to a new place that is opening up in North East Minneapolis.

Klecko brings a promo (baskets filled with samples from out product line), walks in and starts making friendly with a small mob of guys standing amidst construction.

Rule #1, when you walk into a sales call, it is never good to guess who your contact person is.

Often times even a seasoned pro will choose poorly and you'd be surprised how pissed off the peeps with purchasing power can become when you select their assistant.

Instead it's just better to stand in the middle of a room / kitchen and just hold a pile of bread and scream.....


Eventually the proper person will surface and then the courtship can begin.

Rule #2, everybody in the Food Show hates sales guys, that's why Klecko never wears sales guy clothes, instead he wears the same uniform the route drivers wear, in fact....last week when waiting to meet Food Service News editor Mike Mitchelson in the lobby of the New Bohemia, the server asked me if I had come to drop off beer.

But I digress.

Rule #2 is don't try to be more clever than a simply can't do it.

Just start your sales call with something like.......

"What up brah?'s time for Big Papi to get a little greasy and start pimping product."

9 out of 10 times this line will give me immediate acceptance.

Next you show Chef your products, describe how you are all about service, briefly discuss pricing and then see where she/he is going to take the conversation.

Some Chef's want you in and out within 2 minutes, while others want you to spend some quality time. sometimes visitors can be few and far between.

But then the next part gets tricky.........


The new account application or "N.A.A." is a single sheet of paper that is used to route the account with the others that you already have. It discusses credit / payment terms, drop off time and/or if we will need a key to get in.

Basic stuff like that....

As a business selling wholesale goods, we have to have the N.A.A.

But for whatever reason, 90% of all clients will accept this piece of paper with grace, swear an oath on their children's life that the owner will fill it out....and next thing you know......

It's 72 hours later, and all of a sudden the siren goes off in the office. The order taker will ask over the intercom......

"Klecko there's some new account that needs and order for tomorrow.....but they're not in our system."

It can get frustrating, but that's just how it goes.

On an average, the sales rep will have to go to a concept at least 3 times before the thing gets a John Hancock.

So yesterday, I'm across town...30 miles from the bakery, and even though it's my second time here, the guy I talk to say's.....

"New Account Application....where is it?"

This is where Klecko gets put in an awkward position, because at this point he has to inform the future client in a non threatening way............

"I dunno....I gave it to you with your samples last time I was here. Where did you put it?"

Then you can see a glistening in the eye of you client, who now is getting frustrated as well.

Klecko says............

I'll give you this one here, but I'm gonna need you to fax it to me today...ok?

Then there's a pause.

A pause is never good, because whenever there is a pause, the client almost always follows up with....

"Sorry, we don't have a fax."

So that's what happened, 2 days, 2 stops and 120 miles racked up on the ol' bread truck.

When I went back to my ride, which was parked in front of the restaurant, a cop car pulls up right behind me and lights up the bells and whistles......

"Rats" thinks Klecko.... "What did I do wrong?"

Then and only then the Last American Baker notices that he is parked smack dab in front of a handicap sign.....oops.

Tick-Tock goes the clock......

Klecko sits patiently.

Klecko sits unnerved.

But the cop won't get out of his squad car.

Red Light - Blue Light.....WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO rushes the siren.

Everybody in this blue collar neighborhood just watches the cop and the baker.

After what seems like a year, the cop gets out and ambles slowly. I'm only 20 feet from his ride.....but cops love to do that slow stroll, don't they?

Klecko rolls down the window.....

"Good morning officer, I am sorry to inconvenience you today."

Slience-Silence-Silence......all while Johnny Law gives me the once over.

The guy looked to be 50, and he reminded me of that cop in the movies, you know...the honest Irish cop in the neighborhood that acts gruff but actually is a good Joe.

"You like to park in handicap spots mister?"

What could I say?

I opted for the truth......

"I'm sorry officer. I won't lie, I was in a hurry, but that's no excuse. I have embarrassed myself ."

The cop stares thoughtfully.......

"Didn't you see me running the lights, didn't you see me giving you a chance to slip away? Why didn't you take off?"

It sounded like a trick question..................

"I'm from Saint Paul officer, the police over there have us trained. If you run from a police light in Saint Paul, it usually ends with a thump."

Now the cop chuckles......

"Pay more attention in the future. I saw you making your delivery, just remember this is my beat. I run this street. Are we clear?"

"Crystal" I responded and whoosh......back to the Capitol City I went.

So today, I made the pilgrimage again, and I actually made decent time even though I made the voyage during rush hour.

When I arrived, I pulled into the pharmacy parking lot that is connected to the restaurant, and when I stepped out of the bread truck.....GREAT CAESAR'S GHOST, there, just a few feet from me was 7 wild turkeys.

Over the last couple of years I had heard they were in parts of Minneapolis, and time to time one of my Facebook friends will post one of there mug shots....but 7?

These 7 turkeys were strutting, screaming with their tails all fanned out.

I gotta tell you I was more than freaked out, at one point the....what are turkeys...a cluster? a school?

Well whatever their clan is called, at one point they turned on me and I almost soiled myself.

If you've never seen one of these creatures.....they are huge, much bigger than I thought.

And they are really-really loud.

Truth be told, if I came over on the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria and got invited to hang with the locals.....if there was a lot of these creatures back then.....Klecko gets back on the boat and heads back to doubt about it.

So now Klecko goes in, smiles and his potential customer winces........

"I promise, seriously....I'll have it faxed over by noon today."

As of 5 p.m. central time never came.

Guess where Klecko will be tomorrow morning?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Radio Wars in the Kitchen

It was just a year ago that Hennessy came aboard at the bakery.

I remember on the first day that she entered the plant....a befuddling look seemed to overwhelm her before asking....

"Where's the radio?"

Klecko smiled, and chuckled on the inside.....and responded...

"What radio? We don't need no stinking radio!"

This particular stance of mine has been one of the more controversial in my tenure as "Boss Man."

When Klecko became in charge, he remained chill for a bit, but pulling radio's out of the production area was one of the first things he did.

I enjoy music, and I enjoy sporting events and talk radio, but what I don't enjoy is one radio.....shared between a crew.

You'd think it would be simple, you would think people would perceive the benefit that a radio can bring as a privilege.....but it almost never happens.

Heavy Metal dude will want his sounds, where Cowboy baker will want her twang.....and thus the battle begins.

Then-then-then.....there is the whole Latino element that now has entered the kitchen radio arena.....your Hispanic bakers (and rightfully so) prefer to listen to the music from their homeland.

I have watched ownership(s) offer radio slots, and set volume levels, but the second the charge person steps into the office, or leaves the building, the war will begin to wage.

For whatever reason, the Cowboy baker might forfeit her radio slot because she is busy on a project in the cooler for most of the day.

Like scraps tossed to the impoverished........the music heads will scramble for the abandoned radio time.

Sometimes the person who doesn't care to use their allotted music time will simply give it away to one of the other music camps, or other times.....I've witnessed people selling their music slots.

Sometimes for the price of a Tombstone Pizza, a few hits of speed and a Dr Pepper.......a guy can listen to to Iron Maiden for his entire shift.

Saint's of us from ourselves.

Then, there is always that industrious person who will arbitrarily bring in their own radio, and now you'll have 2 radios book ending the bakery/kitchen.

Just yesterday Klecko was at a monster account, in a kitchen the size of Jonah's whale.

As I walked through looking for the Sous Chef, I heard the.......

"BOOM-BOOMP BOOM-BOOMP, BOOM-BOOMP BOOM-BOOMP"  of a tuba keeping beat for a mariachi band on the local Mexican radio station.

Before I got out of ear shot, I hear then crooning from radio #2.........


Yep, Micheal Jackson seems to live on, even in the underbelly of American kitchens.

But if there is just one thing that gets under my skin, its trying to focus on my task at hand, while I am standing on a space that is immune to overlapping radio's.......Christ take me home.

Radio's in the work place have caused more problems than almost anything you can think of.

Is there a compromise?

I'm not opposed to somebody bringing in an I-Pod, but if you are going to go that route, a little discretion needs to be observed as well.

Only one ear should be allowed to be serviced.

The second you cover both, the employee often times fills fades away, becomes isolated, and can be at risk from not being able to hear what's taking place in their surrounding area.

Working in a bakery or kitchen might not be as dangerous as building skyscrapers or underwater welding, but just talking to any bloke that's been in the show for an extended period of time and they'll be able to rattle off countless situations where people got damaged from lack of focus.



OMG, I'm starting to sound like my father....LOL

L.A.B. Rat's stay safe, and ROCK ON!


Friday, October 19, 2012

Deconstructing the Muffaletta

Everytime I hear people speak about New curiousity peaks.

I once rode a bus through the Big Easy, stopped at smorgasbord.....and then off to Biloxi I went.

But that was the extent of my short lived stay.

No romance there huh?

Most of the people I have discussed New Orleans either Love It....or Hate It.

Jason Walstrom, my tattoo guy (Sea Wolf Tattoo Company) did most of his training there.

When he starts talking about'll eith Love...or Hate him LOL.

When New Orleans is mentioned....a lot of people will discuss the food and the music, but Jason.....he seems to value the people the most.

On the other hand is my friend Brutus.

Brutus and I used to do night club comedy back in the 90's.

Brutus lives his life to "dance" with pretty girls and party.

He's that "Vegas" guy many of you work with at the office.

On Monday morning, you might see him approaching the water cooler and then ask how he made out in Sin City...

And you know his response will always be the same.........

"Let's just say the trip paid for itself."

Anyways......Brutus hates New Orleans, it is his contention that it is just Vegas with an ashtray for a floor, and vampires as a populace.

This morning I was speaking with a chef who requested muffaletta's.

From my scattered bread history, this is kinda a Big Easy bread....maybe it came over with the French, but anyways.......

As me and the bakers discussed our perception of what the primo muffaletta was (before engaging Google), we came up with 8 inches wide, 2 inches tall, usually an Italian bread dough, but olive oil is the mandatory fat.

Also we were in agreement sesame seeds were the typical garnish, but Hennessy chimed in.....

"Not Nessisarily."

........Pastry Chefs.......sigh, LOL

So with that said, here is your chance to chime in and give your opinion(s), I know you L.A.B. Rats are full of them, so get to work.


The last American Baker

Sunday, October 14, 2012

3 Dogs, 1 Hug

For those of you who enter this Blog for baking, you can check out right now and return to my next post, where I'm sure I will dazzle you will my culinary charm.

For those of you who enter to witness the sensitivity confusion of a Pollack....stay tuned.

As many of you know, for over a decade I have lived with a pack of 4 dogs.

Several days ago I had to put down my pack alpha.

Truth be told, I don't want to discuss that, I prefer grieving in private.

But Sue McGleno and I have been drifting along for the last few days.

This morning, I was coming up from the basement, my eyes were level with Romeo (Sue McGleno's mutt of choice) and I noticed his left eye was swollen and kinda drippy.

So back in the bread mobile, and back to the vet.

It's Sunday, and many vet's are closed, so a bunch of people were sitting in the waiting room of my neighborhood Banfield.

I went alone, so Romeo and I sat quietly.

There was all kinds of peeps........

The good looking chick who looked like Paula Abdul, she had her Coon Hound in a muzzle.

An older woman with a Carin Terrier (like Toto)

2 girls who raided a strippers closets stilted in on boots with 6 inch heals (chihuahua of course).

A young couple with a Jack Russell that had pointy bat ears.

3 people, 1 dude, 2 women, all of these people were pretty large, and both the women were wearing pajama bottoms, but dude had jeans. The jeans didn't fit though, and as he bent down onto the floor to cover a old-sick looking cat with his shirt, the guy's pants slipped down and he had plumbers crack.

Nobody cared though, because these people were in pain.

From the conversation the 3 people shared, you can make a pretty safe bet, that if they were riding a bus....passengers would sit next to me before them, and that almost never happens.

This trio was just flat out bizarre, but for whatever reason, and due to circumstance, they were exempt from silent ridicule or judgement because all of us were tossed into a Yahtzee cup of sadness.

My little Romeo just laid in my arms, head slumped back, belly up, body if he were the Christ dog and I was carrying his body after being removed from the cross.

I was somewhat certain that his ailment was treatable, but just days prior, I thought my dog Peanut had a twisted knee....but I couldn't of been more wrong.

So Klecko sits in confidence.....

Klecko sits in fear......

Now a exam room door opens, a man 30ish walks out with a woman 55-60ish.

They go to the payment counter, the guy and woman have tears.

Dude is trying with all of his might to hold back from crying in public, I don't care if he does, but I wouldn't want him to cuz I hate that too.

Now the 55-60ish woman tells counter lady how she was watching this 30ish guys (her son) dog and it got into some poison.

The dogs life was in the balance, the 2 of them ended up leaving together.

Both of them were silent....

Both of them had tears streaming down their cheeks......

Me and Romeo sat in silence and rocked back and forth.

An hour goes by, and counter lady calls me up......

"Sir, we are behind, can you come back in 2 1/2 hours?"

I felt like screaming, slugging......but I just tabled my frustration, slid into the breadmobile and lurked away.

Tick-Tock goes the clock, 2 1/2 hours pass.....I head in.

Sue McGleno is with us now, and while she talks to the counter woman....I have Romeo in my arms and then I see the 60ish year old woman who poisoned her son's dog walk out of the exam room.

The 30 year kid isn't is by herself.

Now she walks over to the bench and sits appeared that she may not of had the faculties to stand....and nobody says a word.

I began to wonder why the room of us (there's like 7 or 8 people there, plus staff) didn't respond to this woman's pain......maybe because we were hurting as well.

But as I rocked back and forth, back and forth.....I watched how the Vet's Tech came out and explained what medicines should be served to the 60ish year old woman's dog who was also present at the poisoning.

The woman was numb.

So now I'm watching this this, and I don't know if it was the Saints of Warsaw.....but I felt compelled to take away her pain. I felt compelled to hug her.

But there was simply no way in he** I was gonna do it.

A guy who looks like me, walking over and issuing an unsolicited hug.......I could actually get in trouble.

So I watched a little longer....the lady began to melt, and against all better judgement, I walked over and embraced the woman, looked her in the eyes and said...........

"It's gonna be OK, sometimes the Universe just spins out of control, but I'm here to tell you....It is going to be OK."

She didn't answer back.She didn't respond with a heart felt line to let me know that my encouragement had healed her......but she did smile, she smiled big.

Looking back, I think it's good I hugged her, I think if circumstance warranted... I would do it again.

Saint's of Warsaw......tonight is a turning point for that woman's dog, I heard the chances were pretty much 50%. I don't know how stuff like this works, but I'm just saying.....could you do a baker a solid?

L.A.B. Rats......if you are peeps of faith.......thanks


Romeo had a cranial abrasion / scratched retina and needs to take 2 ointments 3 times a day, and one ointment once a day, then Klecko will have to return next Sunday

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gilligan's Isle - Klecko's Birthday Cupcakes

When Klecko was a small kid in elementary school, one of his favorite shows was Gilligan's Isle.

It didn't matter how many times I saw these episodes over and over and over.......

I just couldn't get enough.

I remember watching an episode where Gilligan got conked on the head with a coconut, but I think I thought that the coconut was a fictitious object because, I almost remember it like it was like yesterday....

My mom and I were at a Piggly Wiggly, in the produce aisle, and there, on the endcaps was a big pile of coconuts.

I was more than intrigued, I think this might have been my first compulsive moment.

I begged to get one, but my mother said "NO".

I was told I wouldn't like them and they weren't practical.

But then little Danny did the sad puppy dog eyes and my mom caved in.

I went home and found out the opening a real coconut wasn't as easy as it appeared on television.

When I finally got the blasted thing opened.......I wasn't all that crazy over it's contents.

As the years have gone by though, coconut is one of my very favorite flavors, and in fact, if I ever do bake myself a birthday cake, coconut will be the primary ingredient.

Before I share with you a great coconut recipe......

Let me hit you with some Gilligan factoids -

In the first season, the cast drank from real coconut shell cups, but they ended up sweating out the contents and were replaced with fake cups.

Jayne Mansfield turned down the role of Ginger

Raquel Welch auditioned for Mary Anne

The woman who played Mrs Howell had a stipulation in her contract that there would be no close ups of her face. she was 13 years older than the guy who played Mr Howell and it freaked her out

Eventually the show got cancelled to make room for Gunsmoke

On the shot of the opening credits, the flag in the harbor is at half-mast. This is because the shot was filmed right after JFK was killed.

    Klecko's Coconut Cupcakes!

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon rum
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup apricot nectar
  • 1/4 cup pineapple preserves
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup pineapple preserves
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 36 maraschino cherries

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nuns, Saints and Dog Biscuit Recipes

The Following is an excerpt from my book K-9 Nation (Baking for my best friend)

These days I walk a Sheltie, 2  Jack Russell's and a Chihuahua through the streets of the Highland Park neighborhood in Saint Paul.

W/O a doubt, my evening walk with the pack is my best part of the day.

Not only do my little guys get exercise, but I get a chance to decompress and think about chess, baseball, and building the perfect bread kingdom.

On the backswing towards home, I like to head down Hamline Avenue and stop by Sister Rosalind's house.

If you don't know her, give me a minute to brag her up.

During the 1980s she opened a massage center on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul. The vice squad shut her down for not having a license.  They thought she was running a brothel. When the newspapers got a hold of the story, you can imagine the headlines.

How many Nuns get busted on the hunch they are running a home of ill repute?

After getting her license in order, Sister Rosalind used her notoriety to expand her massage empire.

She calls it her ministry, and it includes massage schools, wellness centers, and clinics in Minnesota and North Dakota. These days a lot of her publicity comes from giving massages in the outfield bleachers during independent minor league baseball games at the Saint Paul Saint's Stadium.

The pack and I love Sister Rosalind for her great stories and insights. I can't count on how many summer evenings she's educated me about the Saints of heaven in her front yard class room.

Did you know, by the way that Otto of Bamberg is the patron saint of rabies?

Sister Rosalind's ecclesiastical knowledge is matched by a big dose of down to earth common sense. One evening when the pack and I were visiting her, my mutts started getting restless.

Rather than finishing her thoughts about a saint, Sister Rosalind asked me this question.....

"Do you know why you spend so much time with dogs?"

I wasn't sure if it was one of those Nun trick questions, so I kept my mouth shut.

finally she answered for me....

"When you spend time with God's creations, its just another form of prayer."

End of story -

Sometimes people wonder how the world will view their legacy, but the older I get, the less I wonder about such things.

Now days I like to give thanks for the good fortune that has drifted into my world.

Recently Sister Rosalind has moved to an assisted living facility for Nuns and some family has purchased her house.

Almost immediately these people dug up her garden, added a second floor to the existing structure, and.....

And tore down the Saint Francis shrine I built for her.

It was in her front yard and when the Catholics walked their dogs by this shrine, they would sign themselves and ask Saint Francis to protect their animals.

Those were such happy days.

Sister Rosalind Sainted Biscuits -

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup corn meal

1/4 cup cracked wheat

1/2 cup Danish fontina cheese (cubed)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 egg

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Supporting Ugly Food (Best Soup Recipe)

I don't know how you guys think......

But do you ever lay awake at night, in those quiet moments and wonder about "Big Picture" stuff?

Life - Death - Purpose - Loyalty

Recently I was stretched out on the couch, laying there with my chihuahua (Deedle - Deedle) and I asked myself if I give average looking girls the same attention as the beautiful women.

I shook the idea around a bit in my head, and then Deedle - Deedle began grunting, and then he and I began to bob in and out of sleep.

Then I pictured myself being in heaven, and all the souls of every person who lived were lined up in neat rows, and all these souls were vapor like, and housed in plexi glass cubes.

The souls didn't talk, but in some weird way.....I could tell they were communicating.

Then it occured to me that there weren't any eye's or hair attached to these entities, how was I to know which ones were the pretty ones.

Then I woke up, and I kinda felt ashamed, as Deedle - Deedle and I spooned in front of an ESPN Sports Center ocured to me.

Placing value on appearance over content of the heart and soul is not only shallow, but if I were God, I would make it punishable.

Food can kinda be like that too, often times people put things on their plates and in their bowls because they look wonderful.

Recently.....I was over at a Pollack bakery talking with the staff when one of the employees offered me lunch.

A tray was handed to me, their was sausage, bread, boiled red cabbbage and a bowl of soup.

If you've followed this Blog for any time, you know Klecko is a soup junkie.

So when I stared into the bowl and saw something that I had never seen before, I was surprised.

This soup wasn't just an Eastern Euro was the Ugly Duckling of not only all soups, but it might have been this ugliest thing to ever crawl into a bowl.

The creamed broth had that muted brown color of baby poo, and amongst this baby poo appeared to be shredded sea weed.

I would be a liar if I told you I wasn't afraid to sample this gesture of friendship, I was...but I did try it.


It may have been one of the greatest flavors I've ever experienced.

How deceaving appearances can be.

The soup is called Sorrel (rhymes with Moral), and is a fave of Jews and Eastern Euro's.

The Sorrel leaves are kinda big and shaped like Lancelot's shield, so it is best the chop them fine.

As I slurped in this tangy greatness, the guy who gave it to me told me that one of the older women that had worked their for years grew the restaurants Sorrel supply in her garden.

When I went home, I Googled Jewish and Russian Blogs getting opinions on this spectacular herb, and found out that it only gets one bloom in the late spring.

Some of my sources indacated that the French also have a Sorrel plant that is more domesticated and smaller in size, but this version lacks some of the lemon "POP" that the wild version contains.

The following is submitted for your enjoyment L.A.B. Rats....don't say I never gave you anything, and remember.......all of us are beautiful.....right?

Sorrel Soup

1 pound Sorrel Leaves, washed and stemmed
(if you run a little short you can add spinach)

2 tablespoon Butter

1 Potato diced

1 Onion diced

4 cups Chicken Stock

2 cups Heavy Cream

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons of Sugar

Juice of a Lemon


Melt your butter and saute your sorrel, onions until the sorrel wilts.

Add the potato and simmer until tender.

Remove from the burner and stir in the sugar and lemon juice.

Stir in the cream

*I have not seen many versions were pepper is used, however.....I think it would be savage to exclude God's favorite ingredient.

Good Luck

Saturday, October 6, 2012

It Hurts @ 4 a.m.

Whenever Sue McGleno leaves town, I have trouble sleeping.

Thursday morning she left for quilters camp with her sister for a 4 day sewing palooza.

My alarm was set for 4:30 this morning, but I woke up at 3:28.

I just kinda sat there on the couch with a pile of dogs, sitting in the dead silence of morning, watching time pass.

When Sue McGleno leaves town, I find myself talking to my my dogs, in conversations concerning topics that don't necessarily hold their attention.

I needed to be at the bakery in about an hour to set up for our annual Oktoberfest Retail, so I hopped in the shower and got dressed for my journey.

When I stepped outside to hop into the bread mobile, it was really dark out, vampire movie dark, and there was a chill in the air like I hadn't felt in over 1/2 a year.

The cool felt wonderful.

My street has been looking a little post apocalyptic lately because the city is tearing up the street and front yards of all the residents on the 1300 block of Hartford.

I've heard it has something to do with gaslines, but Klecko doesn't pay too much attention to city municipalities. 

Now I'm standing in the street, but I don't want to jump into the breadmobile quite yet.

As much as I hate silence, at this moment everything seems perfect.

Just 90 short days ago me and my lads went through a week of baking in temps that hit over 120 (F) but the quiet of this morning.....that suffering seemed like it was a decade ago.

Because the city has demolished my neighborhood, there are craters 10 and 15 feet deep everywhere.

To prevent us from killing ourselves, our civic leaders have strategically placed a buttload of those sawhorse deals with the orange blinking lights on them.

Now my hand decides to work independently and reaches for the handle of my truck, but my mind whispered softly.......

"Hold on, you can leave in a moment, but just take a moment to enjoy this moment, before you know it....there is going to be 10 feet of snow and a demonic wind chill."

So I stood there and watched the fog of my breath leave my mouth while I counted the blinking orange lights that stretched down the street, out of my sight line.

It wasn't EZ getting an exact number because they were blinking so fast, it would kinda be like trying to count fire flies in a jar at the end of the dock while you are drinking highballs inside the cabin.

After getting to 108, I thanked the Polish Christ for this moment, and told him if I am realizing anything at this point in life, its that if you want to harness joy, you almost always have to lasso it in the process of your experiences.

Joy simply doesn't sit in a lawn chair smoking a cigarette, waiting for you to cross the finish line.

I hop into my ride.

I turn on the ignition.

My dash indicates it's 38 degrees.

Then I slam the door......


My foot must have been working independently this morning as well. It forgot to join the rest of my body and ended up getting crushed.

It hurt so bad that I didn't even consider cursing.

I just sat in an instant pain that likes to bring you to the entrance of the "Pass Out Hotel", but for whatever reason, it never seems to cross that threshold.

Within a couple minutes I was fine, and I told myself that the one good part of my foot slamming was at least there was no witnesses around to document my pain.

In a bakery, or at least our of the crews favorites past times is watching fellow crew members get hurt.

Now I'm not talking finger cut off hurt, or arm caught in a Hobart or oven.

I'm talking about something like what happened Friday.

Emilo (who has the name "CHANGA" embroidered on his uniform, a word that is Spanish for monkey, or gorilla....I not quite sure which) was greasing some 4 strap pans. These forms weigh about 6 or 7 pound each and more often than not, they usually stack into each other, like paper cups do in a dispenser.

Well Changa was in a hurry pulling these forms apart from one another, and in the process he pinched his finger really hard, pulled his hand away, threw the pan and began to make a yelping sound.

But before he suffered too loud, in the briefest of instances, he turned his stare upward to take inventory as to how many people saw his accident.

To his dismay, the number was somewhere between 8 and 10 guys.

The second the bakers saw that Change saw them....everybody ROARED in a gut wrenching laughter that was also embellished for effect.


Remember, we are all standing in the middle of a factory warehouse that might be big enough to have housed the Hindenburg.

Voices carry in this space, and laughter erupts exponentially. 

Over the years there have been some who have not chimed in on the joint celebration.

Some may have chose this route because they were mature, while others may have hoped to avoid their eventual hazing.....

But Changa, he just kinda blushed, then smiled knowing that next time it was more than likely he would be on the other side of this ritual.

For those of you who work in banks, offices or retail, I totally get how you could view this behavior as savage.

But for those of you that have worked production, or on a blue collar crew, you might get how moments like these can be the highlight of a shift....even for the poor lout who is getting laughed at.

The cold wind is in the air Polish Jesus, and I give you thanks that you kept our crew safe this summer.

Sue McGleno....finish that quilt and come home to Papi......even the dogs are ignoring me.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Irish Bars and Stripper Poles

Dear L.A.B. RATS,

I hope you will pardon me recent absence, but Klecko has been out on the road.

Last week I was off to the Windy City to join in on a Baker's Think Tank.

Sometimes these types of events are totally lame.

And other times they can be kinda fun.

This turned out to be one of the better gigs I've attended.

My host had me on the hook the moment my flight touched down at Middway.

Waiting for yours truly......... a stretch limo.

Now I know I have taken pride in flaunting my peasant roots, but c'mon.....just avoiding having to ride the "L" is a blessing, but to kick back...stretch your legs and have some cat named Jeeves schlep you up to your accommodations is priceless.

I stayed at the Hotel Felix, and everything in my room was white.

Not just white, but sparkle white.

And hanging from the door of my bathroom was a Hotel Felix bathrobe.

I've never had a hotel bathrobe made available to me.

As I unpacked my gear, I stared out the window and saw the Sports Authority store, it used to be the Nike warehouse in the 90's.

13 years ago, I took Sue McGleno and 8 year old Tydus to Chicago to catch our first ever Cubs game and my wife put me in charge of packing for me and the kid.

Well, it so happened that I forgot to pack socks, and me and Tydus had to walk into that store to buy some.

13 years doesn't seem like all that long ago, but I remember being worried that this additional purchase might cut into our travel budget.

Klecko didn't have much money in those days.

So now there I am sitting in my hotel room and unpacking and missing my son.

The following day he would be turning 21.

This made me feel blessed and sad at the same time.

All the highlights in Klecko's life have his family members in it, and now that he's getting older.....he's kinda turning into a pathetic - sensitive old man.

I think it's 2:30 in the afternoon now, and I don't really know many of the peeps who are at this dealio, and eventhough I'm only going to be gone from home for 36 hours....sadness begins to creep in my heart.

So now I'm getting irritated with what a whiner I've become, so that's when I decided to hit the streets and let Chicago have their Klecko reunion.

The first thing I noticed strolling down the avenue was Chicago people were different than my peeps in the Twin Cities.

When the good people of Chicago walk the streets, they walk with purpose. Each and everyone of them have someplace important to go to.

I began to drift hoping that an art gallery or band of super models would collide with my path, but after about 1/2 hour....I gave up hope and slid into an Irish bar.

God invented Irish bars to give us a sense of home no matter what part of the planet we are on.

I mean let's face it.....everyone of them is identical. They all serve Guinness, have soccer games on TV and have pictures of JFK stapled to battered panneling.

Now I felt at home, but the difference with Irish bars in Chicago is...their bartenders are actually dudes from Ireland. They have that bad a** accent.

In Minnesota, an Irish bartender is often the Norwegian dude from the suburbs.

When the Think Tank was over and it was time to leave the site, a shuttle parked in front of the college.

The second I popped my head inside......I would lie if I said I wasn't shocked.

Flashing lights swirled throughout the cabin. They were bouncing off a disco ball. There must of been a dozen speakers blaring "Boy Band" music and at the back of the shuttle was a large screen that viewed music videos.

And if that wasn't the middle of the aisle was a strippers pole.

Me and my fellow commuters, all of which were dudes, dudes built like offensive linemen or sumo wrestlers sat without saying a word.

I'm pretty sure I was the first weary traveler to speak when I uttered.........

"If anybody breaths a word of this....they are going to die!"

We all laughed really hard and wondered how this ride selection came to be.

So after the pimp shuttle dropped me off at Middway, I ended up sitting in a bar with a guy from Panera Breads.

He was from Boston, so while the 2 of us ate dinner, we discussed bread and Red Sox baseball.

I was grateful for his company.

The guy was bright, and I learned a thing or two from him.

When I got home that night, it felt really good to be home. Sue McGleno was sleeping, but my 4 mutts all joined me on the couch to watch ESPN.

It felt like I had been gone a year.

Around 3 a.m. I woke up to let my mutts out to pee, and while they were doing this, I checked my Droid for Facebook messages.

Just minutes prior, little baby Tydus posted a rant from what appeared to be the tail end of his night on the town, dedicated to his 21st birthday.

It said........

"For those of you I left messages in Russian on your voicemail last night, I'm not sorry in the least."

I can't tell you how hard I smiled.

While spooning Deedle-Deedle the chihuahua, I realized my son was as big of a loser as me...LOL!

It made me miss him more than ever.