Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Baking / Modern Baking

If I've said it once, I've said it one thousand times.

Danny Klecko is the best baker you'll ever meet........except for your grandmother. LOL

Truth be told, this shouldn't just be my mantra, but the mantra of every commercial baker that has flourished within their career.

I bring this up because tomorrow is my annual Christmas Retail Bake, and I gotta much as it is an honor to hand over (literally) tons of baked goods that will take place in my cities holiday festivities, a few problems can occur.

For instance, Yulekaga verses Stollen.

The former is Scandinavian and the latter is German, but if you ask me the Pollack.....they are pretty much the same thing, dough that houses diced apples, pears, golden raisins, Christmas spices, walnuts, zest and citron......did I mention that all of this is soaked in Whiskey?

In the past I've used Brandy, but all my ethnic customers lovingly blasted me because my recipes were close....but just not quite as good as their granny's.

When you sell holiday loaves, you have to figure you're blanketing a pretty diversified clientele, so one way you can pacify them is by making an off shoot version of a classic standard.

Hence the Irish Yulekaga.

Now for those of you who have never dined with God's favorite people...the Irish don't really have any holiday baking recipes that rank in the top 100, so I guess I took it on myself to take the old Stollen and Yulekaga recipes and swap out the brandy for Whiskey.

This will create a completely different palate, different enough that nobody will dare compare it to their own.

People love-love-love new product lines that are anchored in the old ways.

Ever since I've began spinning this Irish classic, I have always used Jameson Whiskey, however......

My heavenly Father sent little angel messengers in my dreams and told me to buck up and switch over to 2Gingers.

2Gingers is local to me, and the thing I find interesting is that it's ginger component takes that  "snake bite" edge off and adds more flavor.

2Gingers is really worth shopping for if you like to incorperate alchohol into your baked goods.

I also made savory Mince Meat coffee cake cakes (topped with Parmesan Cheese -
Rum Raisin Challah -
Cardamom Loaves  -
Eggnog Poppy Quickbread -
Maple Bacon / Bacon Maple Loaves

And Hennessy........she made enough stuff to fill the Baby Christ's Manger.

Anyways....tomorrow will be busy, and I will be out of circulation until Sunday, so to help you pass the time, let me show you my first shot of love I received from Modern Baking.

If your President Obama - you aspire to be on Time

Bono....he wants the cover of Rolling Stone.

But if your a bread baking pimp like Klecko, it has to be Modern Baking.

I have the cover from the edition this piece ran in and it is framed and hanging over my kitchen sink.

Have a good weekend L.A.B. Rat's, and if you're swinging through Capitol City tomorrow morning (Sat December 1st) we'll see you at 10 a.m.

Saint Agnes buns ice the deal

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Boarding the Ark with Lemon Cake

If Klecko has found one thing in life that has paid dividends, it is to "Put Everything You Love On One Canvas".

This mantra was taught to me by my 1st grade teacher Mrs. McDermitt, and I still live by this sage advice.

Tonight I will be holding a reading for a few friends inside a publishing house with my friend Dara Syrkin.

Our "Event" is titled The Ark Readings and the 2 of us are going to read poems dedicated to animals.

Dara is more of an outdoor animal enthusiest, where I go more for the domesticated route.

After the 2 of us read a few poems each, we'll give tribute to our host Nodin Press, and afterwards the makeshift stage will be opened to our guests to read their own favorite animal poems.

The deal is a 7 p.m. start, so most of our guest will have had dinner, so we've decided that we'll pretty much offer treats.

I'll be bringing a Lemon Cake with an Ark picture on it, and a crate of banana's, Dara will be responsible for healthy cookies in the shape of animals.

Did she mention something about tangerines?

Poetry & Animals -

Poetry & Baked Goods -

I think the only things I desire that have been left off are Borscht, Scotch and Project Runway, but who knows....maybe that's another party.

Tonights show is invite only, but if any of you cat's want to see Klecko and his friends in action, this coming Sunday, December 2nd, we will be reading at the Sub Text Bookstore (with the writing staff of Lief Magizine) at 3 p.m. (right after the Viking finish off the Packers).

Mike Finley will be hosting this event, so you know it's going to be flat out insane. Fireballs flowing from all directions.

Anyways, life is short, so I am excited to share this evening with my friend Dara, so I got to start packing chairs into the bread truck, but before I do.....

Let me pay homage to my first grade teacher and ask you.....

What do you love?

Make a list....then plop them onto one canvas and you shouldn't be surprised how beautiful your work of art will become.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Gift that Satisfies

When you are young, or when I was young.....

I hated homemade gifts. I viewed them as shortcuts into understanding my everchanging needs.

Being young can be complex, but once a guy throws a little rubber onto the road he starts to realize that people don't "make" gifts because they are cheap, or because they don't want to take the time to figure out how complex you are.....

More often than not people make things for their loved ones because they want to give them something that will customize their expression of love, or graditude.

Over the years, if I have learned nothing else....


Perception is a funny word isn't it?

Let's say I knew how many socks you had in your drawer, or if you had any gloves. Would I know your size or color prefrence?

Not a chance.

But booze and food fit into most peoples life.

With that said, if I show up on your doorstep dropping off a 12 pack of Hamms or a fruitcake purchased at a hardware store.

You can be pretty certain you don't rate that high in my life.

If I swing by with a bottle of Scotch or maybe some better than average Champagne, this would be a sign that I value your friendship.

But If you wake up in the morning, and stick your head out the front door to grab your newspaper, and find that some invisble elves have left you a bundle of dog biscuits, in the middle of the night......

Now you know that I worship you.

When you love somebody and you feed them, more often than not...they are touched.

But when you love somebody and feed their children,spouse,mother or pooch....they almost always will become overwhelmed.

People really can be savages, but during the holidays, most folks will curb their greed and value your wares more if you create them for their clan.

For decades now, I have made special dog biscuit batches and given them to people over the holidays and these people simple melt....

"Here Klecko, here's tickets to the opera." or "Take this (exspensive whiskey) small token" and when they hand over their tribute, you can tell it's like they feel as if they are short changing you.

My purpose here is not teach you how to ruse your loved ones and gain material wealth throughout the holidays. I'm just saying.....feed their mutts and you you will have a special place in their heart.


With that said, here's a Klecko blast from the past. This story was written by the editor of the Strib, back when I was pimping doggy cookbooks.

If any of you L.A.B. Rats have any biscuit related questions....holler at me.

Klecko with one of his canine friends
Photo provided by KLECKO,


Saint Agnes Baking Co. sells dog biscuits at its retail store on the first Saturday of the month, from 10 a.m. to noon; 644 Olive St., St. Paul, 651-290-7633 ($3.50 per bag or three bags for $10).

Doggie delights

  • Article by: LEE SVITAK DEAN
  • Star Tribune
  • April 29, 2009 - 2:02 PM
When it comes to baking, don't ask Klecko to choose between people or dogs. With four furry friends at home, it's no contest for this professional baker. As he likes to say, "Bake for people, they're thankful for a day. Bake for your dogs, they're thankful for life."
Feeding dogs is on his mind these days, as it should be for someone who has just written "K-9 Nation Biscuit Book" (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $16.95).
Dan "Klecko" McGleno has been baking professionally for almost 30 years, and he has been tinkering with dog-biscuit recipes for almost that long. In his work life he's CEO of Saint Agnes Baking Co. in St. Paul, which produces bread for restaurants, caterers and companies throughout the Twin Cities. He's also founder of the St. Paul Bread Club, a group of baking fans who gather periodically to share insight and loaves of bread.
After hours, though, he's an animal lover, with two Jack Russells, a sheltie and a Chihuahua at home. And when he's not out walking the dogs, he's likely to be whipping up something for them to eat. For a professional baker, making dog biscuits isn't all that different from making bread (well, except for the occasional ingredient; more on that later).
Klecko's biscuit baking is as much about quality as it is about time in the kitchen. His effort is prompted by what he says is a lack of good food available for dogs. For his animals, these biscuits are not treats, but supplements to their diet.
"In developing a diet for a species, you want to make sure it's cost-effective and healthy. I use biscuits to get different supplements into my animals," he said in an interview.
In one biscuit, he adds dog-grass powder, which he calls the miracle drug for his animals; in another he adds activated charcoal for a breath-mint variation.
The other biscuit ingredients vary widely, according to the needs of the animals, from amaranth and soy flour to brown rice syrup, tofu and bone meal, or agave nectar and orange flower water.
"To be honest, you want to make them interesting for the dog," Klecko said, noting that he offers different types of biscuits to his animals during the course of a day. "Their tastes are somewhat complex."
His biscuits have a practical look (never shaped like fire hydrants or dog bones). Dogs don't care what the treats look like, he notes in exasperation. "People usually make dog biscuits for themselves and their own vanity." (A pizza cutter makes fast work of cutting dough into dog-size pieces.)
He finds that there is something personal about baking a biscuit for your shaggy-haired best friend, just as you might cook for a loved one who is upright at the table. "You create a bond so much greater than when you are just living with an animal," he said. "It's like cooking for people. The relationship is intensified."
Twice a week he breaks out the mixing bowls and bakes for his dogs. He often adds protein to the mix-- chicken, beef or seafood. "Their favorite is anything with fish in it. My dogs are big fans of caviar," he said. On a less extravagant note, he often includes tuna, sardines and shrimp in the biscuits, or the occasional squid ink, which make very black biscuits (chefs use squid ink, why not bakers for dogs?).
So has he tried any of his biscuits?
"I've never eaten one in my entire life, but a lot of people have, " he said.
Klecko, always the evangelist for dogs, was pleased about recent news of the First Dog. A copy of his book is on the way to the First Kids, who are about the right age to start baking for their new best friend.
Got questions on dog biscuit making? Klecko will answer them at
Build a better biscuit
Here are Klecko's keys to a perfect biscuit:
• Start with a "bait" ingredient -- something that smells good to a dog. (Klecko says he never met a dog that didn't love garlic.)
• Tailor the biscuit to the dog's needs. A small dog needs a small treat, a big dog ... you got it, a big treat. Age of the dog makes a difference, too. Dogs older than 6 years of age should have biscuits no thicker than 1/3-inch (it's too hard to chew -- keep dog "years" in mind here). Younger dogs can manage a 1/2-inch treat.
• Keep the biscuits firm (they need to be chewable for the dog). You can judge when they are done by touching them (don't simply look at the color). They will need to be dried thoroughly before they are stored in an airtight container; freezing works well. (Dogs especially like a cold treat in hot weather.)
• Use a variety of biscuits as part of the daily dog menu.
© 2011 Star Tribune

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Arch Bishop, Wigilia and Bread Carvings

Dear L.A.B. Rats, Pollacks and Beasts of the Field.....

The following story was printed in the StarTribune a few years back.

It focuses on the holiest day in a Pollack bakers life.



Jackie Crosby; Staff Writer
Publication Date: December 25, 2004 Page: 07B Section: NEWS Edition: METRO

Polish legend has it that on the night of Christmas Eve, animals
gain the ability to speak in human voices, leading people to seek
the miracle of reconciliation.
To honor the mysticism of legend and his Polish-Catholic
heritage, St. Paul breadmaker Danny ( Klecko) McGleno has started a
tradition that he says delights ethnic Eastern Europeans as well as
urban hipsters.
As darkness falls on Dec. 23, he sets up a holy display of
candles, ribbons and bread around a tree. On the ground, he places
a representation of the Holy Trinity, three 18-inch busts that he
carves from bread. On the branches, he dangles two dozen Polish
sourdough baguettes.
After 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, everything on the trees is "up for
grabs," he says, as people pluck bread from the branches and take
it home to set outside for the animals.
"It's mostly spread by word of mouth, but each year I have a few
more people who come out to see it," said McGleno, who is better
known by his nickname, Klecko. "I get Poles and Czechs. Some of the
Russians get really excited about it."
This year Klecko is setting up outside the Bean Factory, a coffee
shop at 1518 Randolph Av. in St. Paul. He said it is his fifth
official year, though he has done it for years out in the woods.
"According to tradition, this usually happens in the town square
or some gathering place," Klecko said. "In my neighborhood, all the
cool people gather at the Bean Factory."
For modern-day Poles, the night of Christmas Eve, or Wigilia,
remains a night of family gathering, forgiveness and new
For Klecko, who has baked bread for presidents and royalty as
well as provided the bratwurst buns at Minnesota Wild hockey games,
the magic is just part of the joy he gets out of making the display.
"It's a way for me to pay respect to the customs of my masters,"
he said.


I am delighted that Jackie was kind enough to run this story back in the day, however....let me expound on it a little more.

Wigilia is a Polish a day, or better yet, belief that on that when the clock strikes midnight, on the morning of December 24th, the Wigilia starts by the animals gathering at the cities common area.

When they get together at that fountain or tree, the animals transform and are able to communicate with human voices.

This miracle takes place to teach humans how tremendous the power of God (and the Fauna) can be.

Therefore, I think we are supposed to use this moment to realize how imperfect we can be as well and with that, hopefully we will discern how important it is to forgive each other.

The first time I set one of these displays up in the Capitol City was 10 or 11 years ago.

I didn't tell a soul I was going to do this, that is....with the exception of Arch Bishop Flynn.

I called his office, spoke with his Nun / Administrator and tried to hit them up for a blessing.

As Jerry Maguire once said..................

"We live in a cynical-cynical world."

I realize that, but to be honest......I wasn't surprised when the Arch Bishop sent me an official document that blessed me and all the Pollacks that would attend this site.

What did surprise however was that several months later....I ran into a Nun, and she told me that the Arch Bishop actually closed chambers and performed a special Mass for the beasts of the field.

When this news touched me........

My heart opened wide, and my mind told me to never forget that people in high positions often times will do what is required w/o ever letting the rest of us know.

This was such an important moment in my life, and I'm guessing it won't translate in words quite like I wish it would.

But I have always been the type of person that has to believe in authority.

Without it, I would be lost.

some of you Americans might wonder why I would post this message just days before Thanksgiving, why not wait until we get closer to Christmas?

Well, the Commercial World, the Black Market Brigade has already got their engine moving full speed towards you.

Every year Christmas becomes more and more commercial, but it doesn't have to.

If you are a Christian, Catholic....or yes, even a Lutheran, you are in charge of your own personal Christmas, and if you claim this right..........

You get my point.

I digress, In closing, I should give a few more instructions concerning Wigilia .............

The ribbon tied around the tree is supposed to be red. The color denotes the blood of Christ and how it was shed on the cross.

Since this story was reported, I was contacted by Germans in my community that informed me that in one of their traditions, they added a candle to signify that Christ is the light of the world.

How cool it is to see "That Couple" walking down the street at 3:41 a.m. Christmas Eve morning.

These people have to be Lutheran's because not only are they wearing matching windbreakers, but they also are wearing those fluorescent orange vests.....

There they are huffing it up the avenue while the entire city is asleep and then off in the distance......

A flame is blazing.

As they get closer, they see beautiful baguettes dangling from the branches.

There's religious tokens on the ground.

If that weren't enough, as these folks stop to figure out if religious relics by, and on the tree are Blair Witch props.

Then out of the shadows appears a 276 pound Pollack.

Sweet Jesus - Save Their Souls..............................

Every culture has a way to give back.

To many of us Pollacks, and a few of us bakers.

It is really important to give back the God and the Animals.

Our ancestors and Bread Masters have celebrated the Wigilia for centuries.

That is my definition of Christmas Charlie Brown.

Meeting Dietary Demands

As if you havent noticed, I have been intrigued by a little thing called............

doing a "Google Search".

Some people might think it's kinda vapid, but I honestly enjoy looking back at my career, my decisions, my industry.

All to often people talk smack and move down the road, that we have Google to serve as a resource that will hold our comments forever......

Anyway, here is an excerpt from a conference I attended several years ago.

This was a point in time when "Commercial Bakers" were concerned with the demands of the "Healthy Living" consumer.

I remember how many bakers scoffed at you (the consumer) and your demands to have healthier items.

People, if you learn nothing else today......

Just remember that the mob always wins.

Not sometimes.

Not most of the times.

All of the time.

My last Blog entry more than confirms this.

If 5 or 10 years ago you told me Hostess was going to fold, I would have thought you were posessed by a demon.

But Americans are speaking up and demanding healthier products.....

Anyways, enjoy these notes from the National Baking Confrence a couple of years ago.

This was the one that was held in Charlotte North Carolina.

Baking Industry Roundtable–Formulating products to meet dietary demands

Several bakery retailers discuss dietary trends and how they are formulating and marketing those products for the most profit.
The roundtable included: (top to bottom) Ramon Zayas, production manager, Holland Farms Bakery and Deli, Yorkville, N.Y.; Dan “Klecko” McGleno, C.E.O., St. Agnes Baking Co., St. Paul, Minn.; Dale Schurman, co-owner, Cold Spring Bakery, Cold Spring, Minn.; Cynthia Daube, owner, Daube’s Bakery, Rochester, Minn.

In the wake of trans fat regulation and consumers' demand for “cleaner,” more natural products, bakers are looking for ways to reformulate products while maintaining product quality. The trends influencing bakery products include whole grains, natural sweeteners and preservatives, and sourcing ingredients locally. However, the challenges of these products do not stop at formulation.
How to market the new ingredients and products to customers can be just as difficult as the formulation process, but may be even more important. Customers won't know what you are doing unless you tell them, and several baking industry leaders, from retail to foodservice to specialty wholesale operators, talked about formulating, marketing and other trends during a recent roundtable discussion moderated by Modern Baking. The National Honey Board sponsored the event and excerpts from the conversation follow.

MB: How are dietary concerns affecting your product line?

Dale Schurman: We've noticed a big change on the whole grain side. We were making hamburger buns and different dinner buns out of our cracked wheat bread, and we have switched to a 50/50 whole wheat bun. It's been about a year now, and we've noticed that they are picking up in sales.

Cynthia Daube: Everyone wants a five-grain bread or how ever many grains you need. We had already been making 100 percent whole wheat flax bread. And I had pretty good sales. So, we tried a five-grain bread; it is 2-to-1 in sales — outsells everything. It's a half-wheat/half-white bread with grains added. It has a seltzer and a sour. It's easy to make, and it has taken off. We're making it twice a week, and we may need to add one more day.

MB: What about trans fats? Have you reformulated your products?

Daube: My whole bakery is no trans fat, but I had very few customer requests for no trans fat. I did it anyway because I thought it was the right thing to do. I'm not using palm oil — my muffins have always been oil based. The reason I did it is I thought when people buy a muffin, they think they're buying something better or more healthful than a Danish. If they're buying a Danish, they know they've got a big number of calories and a high-fat item. But we happen to use butter. Recently, I switched to using some lard and the line for pineapple fritters was out the door.

Dan “Klecko” McGleno: We chose to switch over because it was the provocative issue in early 2008. I was getting cubes of trans fat-free shortenings for only an additional $5. We didn't even pass the cost on. We used it, we advertised, the whole deal. Customers wanted us to do it because they wanted to be hip and trendy. But, eight months later when flour prices quadrupled, it was the last thing on anyone's mind. After the commodity scare, the trans fat issue lost some luster.

Ramon Zayas: We ran a trans fat-free chocolate cake for six months — everything I introduce, I run it for six months to give it a fair shot. The majority of my customers were like, “No, we will settle for trans fat-made products. We don't want the non-trans fat.” The chocolate cake dried out so much faster. We switched back.

MB: What about customer demand for natural products? What are customers asking for and how are you addressing it?

Daube: Customers are asking for unbleached flour. Many of my customers ask what is in my multi-grain breads. If we can't rattle it right off, we have a book that we can refer to. But customers are asking.

Zayas: We've taken anything that we use corn syrup in and we've switched to honey because honey is natural. It made our customers feel good that we weren't using corn syrup in our formulas. All of our cookies have a little bit of honey in them to give them longer life shelf and make them chewy. We used to use corn syrup because it was cheaper, but customers were so conscientious about corn syrup that we changed our formula. We did have to cut back our sugar content to account for the honey. I do think that people are conscientious and they want to know what is in products.

Klecko: Sweetening agents also have been big talk in our community because a couple of years ago when the honey prices doubled, there was no warning. Bakers started cutting their honey with glucose and they were going to a 50/50 mix. Other bakers were going full out to glucose. And it also happened with molasses. But bakeries in my area are committed to not cutting any sweetening agents, and the sales numbers are going through the roof. Our whole wheat bread is never whole wheat anymore. Now we call it honey whole wheat. I mean, if you're going to pay the money for honey, it gets front billing.

MB: Are customers demanding clean labels?

Klecko: I'm in wholesale, and the restaurant and hotel clientele want labels. So, if you're using preservatives, they want nothing to do with them. I've lost customers over it. We had switched to [an all natural whey mold inhibitor] because it was cleaner, but it was more expensive than [the chemical preservative].

MB: Do you market your natural or whole grain products differently?

Zayas: You have to let customers know you use natural ingredients. If we market that we're buying natural products and paying the price, we need to charge the price.

Klecko: I pick out buzzwords, like for whole wheat the buzzwords are fiber and calcium. So, I draw stick people and use slogans like “When was the last time you had fiber and calcium?” I'm not making any health claims. I'm not giving any percentages.

MB: Do consumers want you to use locally sourced ingredients?

Daube: People are thinking healthy and they are thinking local. I have a restaurant, so we buy a lot of foods locally. Sometimes it costs a whole lot more.

Zayas: We buy local. I'm very adamant about that. You really want to keep your community as vibrant as you can. Really, the only way to do that is to buy local. I may be paying a little bit more for it, but I'm keeping somebody in my community in business so that I can have a business. Because those people I'm buying from, I know that their families are all coming to my shop and buying from me.

MB: Are you able to pass on the added expense of natural or locally sourced ingredients? Or is there a limit to how much of the expense you are able to pass along?

Zayas: I think there is a limit on everything. But, in the same token, don't undersell yourself either, because customers are willing to pay it. We're probably one of the most expensive bakeries in our area, but we sell quality products. And people are willing to pay for it. They are willing to buy that organic bread, and they're willing to pay that extra buck for it.

Klecko: People aren't willing in our community to purchase high quality every day. So, there is a difference in giving people what they want or ask for and what they're going to buy. In my business, I have to sell product every day. I can't sell once a week. I need to get people in every day. The point is people like to talk more than they like to spend. For the most part, if you're going to make a business and take dollars out of the same people's pockets every day, it's easier to do it with good product than with high-end product because in my community, they are just not going to open their wallets every day.

Schurman: That's the same with us. They'll treat themselves, but when it comes to the everyday sales, we have to keep things in a very reasonable price range.

MB: With customers watching expenditures, what are you experiencing with product sizes?

Daube: When the economy changed, people didn't want to stop coming to bakeries, but they were very, very careful with their money. So, we increased small items. We make 3-in. round cakes and 3 1/2- in. to 4-in. tarts. Small is really in.

Klecko: The pastry chefs I work with, their philosophy is if there is more than a second bite, the client is forced into finishing the product. Give them just two bites because after that they're being forced. Let them eat two or three different things if they want to, but each piece should only be two or three bites.

Schurman: Serving sizes have been down on the dessert side. But it seems like our hamburger buns sales are still for the big ones.

Klecko: We're in the opposite direction. We are selling more dollar rolls than we have ever in the 30-year history of the bakery. Two years ago, 25 percent of all of our bun sales were 4-oz. jumbo buns. That's been completely eliminated and replaced with the small plate or tapas theory. The thing is people are still eating just as much — they're just eating five little ones as opposed to the big one.

MB: How have the smaller sizes affected your pricing?

Zayas: I sell 8-in. cakes for $15. But now I offer 4-in. cakes that we make in a muffin tin. For that little 4-in. cake — just one single layer cake either dipped in ganache or iced — I get $2.50. But the thing is that customers come in and buy two. That's $5. They save money even though they know the price is a little high for the amount of cake. But they didn't spend $15 on an 8-in. cake that they're going to throw half of away. They spent $5 on cake that they're going to eat all of. You may say you lost $10 in sales, but not really because I probably have 20 more people buying that $2.50 cake than I did buying the $15 cake.

MB: What other trends are influencing your business?

Klecko: The thing I've been noticing is the women between 20 and 40 are shying away from the sweets more than they used to. I talked to some pastry chefs, and they said you just have to make it savory. When we're looking at that demographic and how they spend their dollars, I'm finding that they feel they have to give themselves permission to eat something sweet. If it's just sweet, they won't buy it, but if it is sweet and savory, they will. I make rustic pastries, and when I made them savory — my definition is I egg wash them and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top — 100 of them were off the rack in less than three minutes. The concept of blending savory with sweet, it's crazy how it makes people feel they have permission.

The End -

BTW L.A.B. Rat's, if you haven't "followed" Modern Baking on Facebook...your loss.

These peeps are the best at what they do, and a resource that is nothing short of a blessing.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Twinkies and Favorite Reviews and Dead Squirrels

Alright L.A.B. Rats -

Klecko is off to Omaha in a few minutes to go see his granddaughter-daughter, and then watch my hometown Gophers get rolled over on Saturday when they line up against the Cornhuskers in Lincoln.

I won't be back for awhile so I will leave you with 3 thoughts......


Yesterday I received a question from "A.F." from London Town U.K. -

"Danny, you have had a pretty good week in the media, is this usual, and do you have a favorite story written about you or your recipes?"

Thanks "A.F.", it is not always typical. I do strive to be in the media, whether that's print, radio or TV every 6 weeks.

But like most things you just have to throw a bunch of mud up against the wall and hope that something will stick.

Here is my fave piece ever, this in many regards was my big break in my local community. My life changed after Dara was kind enough to write the following....................

Lord of The Sourdoughs

Saint Agnes, a St. Paul bakery with a charismatic head baker, rises

Saint Agnes Baking Co.
1250 W. Seventh St., St. Paul
651.290.7633 (Wholesale)

The faces of Klecko, Saint Agnes's head baker
Diana Watters
The faces of Klecko, Saint Agnes's head baker

In Poland, according to Klecko, on Christmas Eve, the animals come alive and talk to each other. When they do this, they had better have something good to talk about. Like, for instance, how they--be they squirrels, sparrows, or starlings--prefer their baguettes to have whole nuts in them, as well as a little Chinese honey and some olive oil, and ideally some kind of whole-seed crust, be it poppy seed, sunflower seed in the shell, or even just your basic birdseed mix.
"Bakers are supposed to give back to Christ by giving to the animals," explains Klecko. "In Poland, they would tend to do this in the woods. But here in St. Paul, I do it out on Randolph and Snelling, by J&S [The Bean Factory]. You know that place? That's where all the cool people over 40 go. Anyway, this Christmas what I did was I hung all these baguettes covered with seeds and honey from a tree, surrounded it with beast-bread boules, and set the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost out there too." (These are loaves that Klecko freezes, carves with a Dremel tool, decorates, and bakes: The Father and Son are here pictured with him.) "I didn't even tell anybody I was going to do it--I just did it. I finished not too long before midnight, then I sat back and watched. Then I came back at 4 a.m., back at 8 a.m. It was wonderful. At 4 a.m. the guys in orange vests, road construction guys, were freaking out. They thought it was some kind of Blair Witch Project. Then later you'd see what the animals would take, and what was missing. I used poppy seeds for the beard of the Christ, and the animals just go crazy for it, and then for the beard of the father I use coconut, and the animals attack that just as well. So stuff starts to be missing. Those animals were so happy. Basically--well, I'll tell you, even though it's a Polish-type secret thing, that when the dough is mixed, you have to stick your hands into the dough and ask the spirit of God to enter into it, and that activates the Trinity within the bread and draws the birds and animals to it. I made one for my mother, too--because you have to carve an extra Christ for your mother or you're going to go to hell--and she told me the squirrels came up to her on the sill and thanked her for it."
And that, my friends, is Klecko: The head baker and production manager for St. Paul bakery Saint Agnes; the self-proclaimed "Lord of the Sourdoughs." (The first time I heard of Klecko was when he left a Christmas message on my phone machine: "This is Klecko, Lord of the Sourdoughs! I am the Lord! Of all sourdoughs! Call me.") Klecko was born Dan McGleno, but is called that by, apparently, no one; and aside from his sovereignty, he has distinguished himself in my mind as the only baker in town who spends his time trying to engineer breads to please highly specific audiences with highly specific needs, be they downtown sandwich makers, NHL hockey fans, squirrels, or you yourself.
See, you probably don't even know it, but chances are good you already have a favorite Saint Agnes bread. Ever had that beautiful black bread with the raisins they serve at the Saint Paul Hotel? It's a Saint Agnes sourdough. You know the brat buns at the Xcel Energy Center, the resilient ones specially engineered to resist ice-melt humidity and never fall apart? Saint Agnes. How about that perfect sandwich bread from D-Brian's, downtown, the fuel-of-a-thousand-office-workers? You guessed it. (Those, by the way, are special-order "basket" loaves, which are a good twice the size of normal breads.) The big, cushiony hamburger buns at T.G.I.Friday's, the ones that make a destination hamburger? Sometimes, Saint Agnes makes three hundred dozen of those a day. Mystic Lake, Stillwater's Dock Café, Dixie's Calhoun, Maria's Café, Bunny's, Mickey's Diner, Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter, and a hundred more local spots feature Saint Agnes breads. Almost any place where popular appeal, cost-consciousness, and quality meet, Saint Agnes is there.
Like at the Mississippi Markets, or at Minneapolis's Wedge Co-op, where Saint Agnes's best-known bread, the "nasty," is terrifically popular. "As we enter into a new century," says Klecko, "People no longer associate Irish soda bread with St. Paul. My city has formed its own identity, and it's "nasty." [Nasty bread is] kind of like having Dennis Rodman for a stepson--you know immediately if you love it or don't; few people tread in between." Anyway, I had never tried Saint Agnes's "nasty" sourdough, a bread made with a double dose of the sourdough starter that has been bubbling along in a pail on West Seventh Street for some 15 years. The big surprise to me was that this nasty bread isn't sour, biting, or acidic, which is what I expected; it is in fact sweet and evocative, tender and accessible. If it were a cheese, it would be a nice rich Wisconsin cheddar, not a stinky old blue.

Klecko says that mine is a popular misconception about sourdough, that the point of increasing the level of sourdough starter is to give the final loaf heft and weight, not bite. It's all about density, says Klecko. And as he is the Lord of the Sourdoughs, and has been making breads in the same location for some 15 years, who am I to quibble?
In fact, Klecko has been working at Saint Agnes longer than there has been a Saint Agnes, because the business now known as Saint Agnes has been around for decades, the whole bakery (buildings, ovens, recipes, mixers, and even some human bakers) chugging along despite various shutdowns or changes in ownership . These days the bakery is owned by Gary Sande and Larry Burns, who have turned the company into one of the larger custom bakeries in town--though I think it would be even more popular if that fantastic Saint Paul Hotel black raisin bread were available in stores, or if another bread of theirs I got to try--a sourdough-based jalapeño/pepper Jack cheese bread--was made into hot dog or hamburger buns. How happy would you be if you could get your Cheddarwurst on a pepper-jack bun? Aside from the fact that we'd have to reinforce the border to Wisconsin with razor-wire fences to stave off the invading hordes hell-bent on capturing our cheese-rich buns, I think it's a clear win-win. I bet these Christmas "beast breads," for the beasts, would go over big, too. I bet if you put ribbons on them, there could be one hanging from every tree in Crocus Hill.

If any of my brilliant ideas ever did get sold, you'd probably see them first at one of the places retail customers can most easily find Saint Agnes products--namely, the Mississippi Markets, the Wedge Co-op, or, in the summer, at either of the main Minneapolis or St. Paul farmers' markets. (When I shopped recently at the Selby Mississippi Market, prices ranged from $1.39 for a package of six hot-dog buns to $3.19 for a 24-ounce chewy, intense wild-rice nasty bread.)
In addition to the black raisin and jalapeño-pepper Jack, Saint Agnes has a whole menu of other breads they could easily unleash: If only we all plead enough, Klecko might even introduce some bialys at the farmers' markets. He's been practicing, and he says a Saint Agnes bialy rivals a New York one. Does it? Who knows? Let's find out. So everyone, please, begin wheedling now. Start this Sunday, February 9 at the Selby/Dale Mississippi Market, where, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Klecko will be talking about sourdough, St. Paul baking traditions, the growing cult of Klecko, and how to engineer a bread to please any palate.
Just don't tell the squirrels!

The End -

Back when this piece was written, internet didnt have the swag it does today. People read newspapers, and this article ran in our cities local hand out called City Pages.

City Pages crossed every demographic you could think of.......

Rich-Poor-City-Suburb-White-Black-Straight-Gay.......EVERYBODY READ THIS.

And back then, when Dara Moskowitz signed off on was the equivalent to receiving God's blessing.

I remember the morning it was released, I ran down to my coffee shop to nab a bunch of copies.

I didn't read them upon arrival, instead I rushed home, sat in the living room, and just when I was about to start......that Johnny Cash video for "Hurt" debuted.

As I watched the video (if you haven't you must You Tube video ever) I became emotional as Johnny Cash lamented love, loss and the end of his legacy.

Who would have a weird cosmic way, and you know I'm not new age, but the Man in Black handed the baton to a cocky Pollack baker.

Up in the heaven's it was reported that he was heard saying.....

"Go gettem kid."

That morning was w/o a doubt one of the 10 greatest moments in my life.

This payout for me personally from this story wasn't just the attention I got, but the confidence it gave me, and the platform it provided me to the love that the people in my city have showered me with.

I will always be indebted to Dara for this.

In closing, I don't like to end on a sad note...but.

This photo of me was taken by Diana Watters.

She was a young, cool hipster that came in as Dara was finishing up.

When she approached me she asked if I was nervous to have my photo taken, but then I bust out Heidi Klum runway poses on her and she laughed...and laughed.

Basically I had 30 minutes with her.

30 minutes where this young lady left an impression on me that i remember all these years later, but a couple years later....she died.

I never got to see her (not that there was any reason to) after she took my shots...but I sure would have loved to run into her at a bar or restaurant and crashed her table with compliments.

Sometimes we don't get second chances for that kind of stuff, so maybe that's why we need to express our gratitude and love pronto.

#2 -

I heard the new today oh boy.........................

Hostess has gone out of business.

I had heard that there was a strike going on, but evidently it was worse than I knew.

Nobody in America really eats their products anymore anyways, but if you are 50 or older....

your entire childhood revolved around Twinkies, Fruit Pies, Ho Ho's, Suzy Q's, Snowballs and dozens of other products.

About a year ago when my granddaughter M-Rose was 2 1/2ish, I gave her - her first Twinkie and she gave me a total look of horror....

Who knows, maybe we are better off as a society, but I think of all those jobs lost, and how all the production efforts that once pleased the world, are nothing more than memories.

Take a gander at the following....................

A twin pack of Hostess Twinkies (© Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Your Twinkies may have reached the end of their shelf life

15 hrs ago
If Hostess workers are made of something other than cream filling, that Twinkie you're pigging out on right now could be your last. The embattled snack food company, which saw employees strike on Nov. 9 after a contract proposal called for an 8 percent pay decrease and benefit cuts, says it will file bankruptcy papers and begin liquidation if union workers don't return to work by 5 p.m. Thursday. That puts 18,000 jobs at risk, to say nothing of the lunchbox dessert options of American schoolchildren, the guilty eating pleasure of millions of adults and a surefire defense for criminal behavior. [Source]
Update: The 5 p.m. deadline passed without an end to the strike or an announcement from Hostess Brands. ABC News said word may come Friday morning.
Click to see more on, updated 24 hours a day.

The End

#3 -

So yesterday I am pulling up to my house, I park the bread truck along curb, and then I saw the weirdest thing.

There was a strong healthy squirrel laying dead at the base of a 70 foot tree.

I was talking to Kim Ode at the time, and giving her the play by play, and she agreed that this was unusual.

I crept closer to the squirrel, because if he would of popped up and yelled "PSYCH"......

I simply would have had a heart attack.

But the squirrel looked so strong, and with what little I know about squirrels, I'd guess he was in his squirrel prime.

The closest branches are like 40 feet up.

So now Kim Ode talk about, discuss the deal, lament a little bit....and she knows I am hours away from embarking on a cross country drive, alone.

And by now you guys know "alone" is not what I am best at, so as we are about to hang up...Kim Ode says...

"Is the squirrel in your yard, or your neighbors?"

"Mine" I answer.

"Well I wouldn't be to worried that....(her voice softens) it-might-be-an-omen."

Click....her receiver is hung up and now I will have to rely on the Saints of Warsaw to protect me.

With that said, I'm out of hear guys, have a good weekend.

I love most of you.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

New from the National Honey Board

Klecko, Saint Agnes Baking Co.

How did you discover your passion for baking?

When I entered junior high school in 1976, my 7th grade class was the first class that had to take both industrial arts and home economics. All of us boys protested about this and the whole issue became heated within our community. But on my first day, I had cooking during period six with Mrs. Williams. That afternoon I ended up baking apple crisp with three girls. I loved it, and haven't left the kitchen since.

What baking trends are you most excited about heading into 2013?

I am betting that one of the trends you will witness next year is that many bakers will utilize alcohol more often to enhance flavor. In years past, spices, extracts and emulsions have been the main source. However alcohol is unique because it offers a different "flash point" while baking, so if that booze is paired properly with an interesting fat like sour cream or goat cheese, not only will your flavor be wonderful, but the crumb wall of your product will create new textures. Also the inclusion of a top shelf alcohol also creates countless marketing options for your products.

What role does honey play in your bakery?

Next to flour and yeast, honey has become the backbone of our bakery. In addition to extending shelf life and creating flavor, it's the purist of all sweeting agents, and rates well with all spending demographics.

Which one of your products made with honey is your personal favorite?

I have many favorite recipes that contain honey, but if I could only pick one, I would have to select Honey-Red Wine Jelly. The thing that is so intriguing about this is that the flavor is unprecedented, I've never had anything quite like this, and the texture is unusual as well.
You can use this as compote filling on a cheese crown, or blend it together with a cream cheese and fill your turnovers.Whatever option you decide on, you won't be disappointed, this recipe is quite decadent.
  • 2 cups of dry red wine (I like a Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 3/4 oz pkg regular powdered fruit pectin
  • 3 1/2 cups honey
  • 1/4 tsp butter

Combine wine and pectin. Stir over a high heat until you come to a boil. Add all the honey and return to a boil. Add butter and continue stirring while boiling for 2 minutes. Then remove from the heat and skim off the foam. Pour into jars and cover with plastic wrap and cool completely and store in the fridge. You should have a 2-3 week shelf life.

You mention on your blog that you have 41 tattoos; are there any plans for the addition of a honeybee in the near future?

Actually I think I am up to 43 by now, but that sounds like a dare. If I were to get a honey bee or a plastic honey bear tattoo, would the National Honey Board promote my commitment? Either way, I will say "YES" and if you have any specific image you'd like to see, send it my way.
View Saint Agnes Baking Co online »

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thank You Richard

Well L.A.B. Rats, sometimes a guy wakes up to  a nice surprise.

Today when I opened my eyes........

My dogs were still breathing -

My wife didn't skip out -

And the following was written in the Daily Planet -

Danny Klecko: Tattooed baker, rebel poet

Danny Klecko with Ben and Connor Crowell (Photo by Lisa McCann)
November 12, 2012
One of the first things you notice are the tats: 42 of them in all – and more to come for, as Danny Klecko explains, "Being Polish, I don’t always share my feelings and I guess that’s my way of doing it."
"As my wife will tell you – when I’m pissed off, I head to the parlor."
Polish or no, these days Klecko, the CEO of St. Agnes Bakery in St. Paul, has found a whole new avenue of personal expression: poetry and literary publishing. He still maintains his other careers: celebrity baker — among other gigs, he’s appeared on Martha Stewart’s radio program — social entrepreneur and founder of the St. Paul Bread Club, and author (his most distinctive tattoo is the ISBN of his book of dog biscuit recipes, Canine Nation: Begging for Your Best Friend, published by the Minnesota Historical Society.)
Conversation in Silence
by Danny Klecko
I took you to the playground at night
So you could have the swing set to yourself
You said – Push me higher
Push, me higher
And I did
The chains began to creak
Your body became a blur
Silhouetted against the stars
A tiny frame whooshing like a comet
There’s going to be hell to pay
When Grandma discovers our adventure
Explanations will be pointless
You said – Push me higher
Push, me higher
And I did
Because nothing is more beautiful
Than the glowing face
Of a granddaughter
Who smiles back
At the moon
“I like to tease him that he embodies both humility and self-reflective qualities with being a megalomaniac,” says Alison Aten at the MHS, who met Klecko when she publicized his book and went on to become personal friends with him. “Somehow he balances both of those – I’m not sure how, but he does.”
His coming out as a poet follows a long gestation period – some 25 years – but in the past year alone he’s given several public readings and launched Leif, an online literary magazine, with his long-time friend, St. Paul writer and poet Mike Finley. In 2010, he also inaugurated a new annual poetry award whose recipients he chooses himself. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Rich Broderick has published contributions in Leif.)
“For first 25 years of my career, I was socially retarded, locked away, doing my craft while other people slept,” he explains. “To keep myself interested I’d write poems.” Over time, he began meeting with other people in the food industry at coffee shops to exchange poems then branched out to share work with friends in other fields.
Then about three years ago, this group, the Kitchen Vault Poets, hatched the idea of a new kind of poetry award – what he calls “a blue collar award.” Thus the annual Kerouac Award was born. Conferred at an afternoon ceremony of readings and potluck in the production area of St. Agnes Bakery, the first Kerouac was awarded to Mike Finley, who, in addition to co-editing Leif, is the author of dozens of books of poems and the recipient of several Pushcart Prizes for his work.
“This award is basically meant for people who work for a living and do poetry for fun,” Klecko explains. “The Kerouac award would honor the Rebel Poet -- the poet who actually lived his or her life as a poet rather than just act like a poet.”
“He does these things with disarming confidence,” observes fellow-poet Kim Ode, a staff writer for the Star Tribune and frequent contributor to the paper’s Taste Section, who met Klecko when she attended one of his bread club meetings 10 years ago. “I’m sure there is a contingent out there [in the literary community] who feel that his behavior is entirely presumptuous, but I think the whole award program has been a ball.”
“What I’ve done in my life didn’t come naturally,” says Klecko. He began his food career at 12 bagging groceries at a SuperValu in Golden Valley before being transferred to the store’s bakery. Then he went on to Dunwoody, which used to have a baking program. “”You obtain confidence by acting confident," he said. "If people believe you believe in yourself then eventually you will.”
“I never met anyone like Klecko before,” says Finley. “He's big as a house, but his heart is even bigger. He volunteered once to do a job with me that no sensible person would offer to do — help me empty my daughter's apartment after her suicide. So he's seen me at my highest and absolute lowest.
"Who do you know that would do that for you?”

End of Story -

So *BLUSH* huh?

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Baking Family

From the time that human's realized wheat, cultivated it, milled it and baked it.......

Most of the people who plugged into this industry did so because their family had done it for generations.

This was true even at the begining of the 80's when I went to Bakers School.

I attended a place called Dunwoody Instatute, and at that point of time, it had a pristine reputation for producing some of the finest bakers in the world.

The year I went, there was only a couple us that actually came from Minnesota, since most of the students came from strong baking famlies from across the nation.

Day after day poor Klecko had to sit there and listen to how Johnny's grandpa used to make their apple fritters out in Ohio, or how Milos and his gypsy clan had been making rye breads across the pacific northwest for generations.

Klecko pretty much was a baking orphan.

I don't bring this up to draw pity.......

Well maybe I do, but I guess what I'm wanting to make sure to document is that for centuries, recipes....and more important yet, techniques were handed down through famlies.

Now that those days are gone, I guess I shouldn't judge whether its bad or good.....

But I do think most of us tend to feel a little sad when traditions begin to fade.

One thing I have found ironic in the commercial baking world is now that so-so many of these family concepts are gone for good.....

Throughout the years I never had a dad or an uncle to confide in, plot stategy or build an empire with, but yet I chose to stay in the field.

After the first 5 years of working in the industry, my Bread Master - Dick Kiwus called me into a room and asked me what I thought I would do with my career.

I think I said something like .......

"I will become the Indiana Jones of this industry and travel to exotic lands, conquers their recipes and "hang out" with there women."

The old man laughed and told me......

"You're still an idiot. If you want people to take you serious, just shut your f****** mouth and stay in one place. If you do this, and you get me kid, the world will come to you."

I'm sure some of you who are reading this are in my've been established in a career/concept for years, and in that time you've seen a lot of people come and go.

Typically most of the people that use an industry for a pit stop are the people who are not networked.

If you have family or friends in "The Show" it sure makes it a lot easier to gain some traction.

So why does Klecko think he outlasted so many others?

Truth be told.....little of it had anything to do with my passion or commitment.

There has been several occasions were I thought about hanging up my baking whites.

But now that I think back, it is important for me to remember, and doccument for future L.A.B. Rats that if Danny Klecko has ever baked anything that has pleased anyone, it has to do with the fact that his mentors were his family.

We might not have shared bloodlines, but I will pledge to you in front of the Saints from Warsaw that the following gentlemen can take pride in all of my accomplishments.

Master Dick Kiwus

Master Pete Nowicki

Master Spencer Ludke

Wherever you are, know that I have not, nor will I ever take your generous spirts for granted.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bakery Drivers and Broken Crucifixes

During my lunch break, I pulled the following story off the AP.

The star of the story is a guy who is a route driver for a bakery.

Over the years I have known over a hundred route drivers.

Often times these guys are not book smart, but in almost every case......

These guys are street smart, and I would classify them as "Clever with Savvy".

These are the men and women I would like in the fox hole with me when Denmark invades my homeland.

Let me post the story, and then I will come back to part with some closing questions.

Story starting in 3-2-1

ALBANY, N.Y. — David Jimenez was so elated over his wife's recovery from cancer that he offered to clean the large crucifix outside the Hudson Valley church where he spent many hours praying for her to beat the disease. On Memorial Day 2010, he was scrubbing grime off the cross when the 600-pound marble statuary toppled over, crushing his right leg.
The then-43-year-old immigrant from Mexico was flown to Westchester Medical Center, where doctors had to amputate his injured leg. He's suing the Roman Catholic church where he was hurt, and early next year his $3 million lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial.
"He attributed her recovery to his devotion to the cross and Christ hearing his prayers," Jimenez's lawyer, Kevin Kitson of White Plains, told The Associated Press.
Kitson said he filed the lawsuit in March 2011 after the church denied it was liable for the accident that resulted in six-figure medical bills for Jimenez. The bills were paid by charitable foundations, Kitson said.
The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in state Supreme Court in Orange County in January, Kitson said.
The attorney described David and Delia Jimenez as devout Catholics who immigrated to the United States from Mexico nearly 20 years ago. They have three children, ages 3, 13 and 17, Kitson said.
During delivery jobs for a bakery and a pizzeria, David would pull into the parking lot at St. Patrick's Church in the city of Newburgh to pray before the outdoor crucifix for his wife, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008. When she was deemed cancer-free two years later, the grateful David received permission from church officials to remove trash from the area around the crucifix, and to clean the crucifix itself, Kitson said.
On May 30, 2010, Jimenez was standing on the crucifix's base, using rags and soapy water to clean Christ's face. While holding onto the cross beam for balance, the whole crucifix snapped off at its base, sending Jimenez crashing to the ground, Kitson said. Pieces of the crucifix broke off, but the bulk of it landed on Jimenez's right leg, crushing it.
Kitson said only a single screw was holding the heavy crucifix to its base.
"There was no anchoring system, just that one screw," he said.
The church raised more than $7,000 for Jimenez and his family, but Kitson said his client has been unable to work since the accident.
Frank Raia of Rikin Radler, the New York law firm representing the church, wouldn't discuss specifics of the case. The church is part of the Archdiocese of New York, which isn't named as a defendant in the lawsuit, Raia said.
"Although the archdiocese and St. Patrick's Church recognize and understand this was a terrible accident and they have empathy for Mr. Jimenez and his family, it's our position that of the diocese and St. Patrick's Church are not liable for the accident."
Kitson's law firm said Wednesday that David Jimenez isn't doing interviews with the media.

The End -

So what do you guys think?

One second dude was giving thanks to God. It was his belief that God healed his wife right?

Next he begged to give back to God.

I can see the church officials milling around saying......

"That gentleman with the bakery truck, yeah....the guy who collects the trash at the foot of the cross. now he wants to climb cross and scrub the face of our Lord."

Then the priests probably said that the guy was a loon and he should stay away before they pelted him with debri.

But then you know some Bing Crosby priest would surface and fight with vigor on behalf of the man whose prayer was answered.

This is how it always works, there are no exceptions.

With that said, dudes wife was cured.

Did he really trust that God healed his wife?

I dunno know, but I feel creepy as "H" that the dude is turning around and suing the "Hand of God" for 3 million.

What a vampire.

Does this mean that God will renig on the healing of the wife and toss lightening bolts at her?

I just don't understand the complexities of such a situation, but I do expect more from a bakery route driver.

Perception is a funny word.

I am guessing that an atheiest might view this different than a person of faith, maybe not.

And I guess I wouldn't be all that surprised if a Lutheran sued them (LOL, just kidding) but dear Saints of Warsaw.

Theres got to be some ramifications of a bakery route driver suing over something like this.

Or am I just insane?

The Last American Baker awaits your replies.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nuns, Pastry Chefs and Wedding Dresses

At the bakery, Hennessy hired a young woman to join her pastry team.

This young woman goes by the name Viper, and in so many ways she cracks me up because... her almost angelic appearance would denote anything other than being a "Bad Girl of Baking."

Viper loves a boy, and the 2 of them are planning on getting married next summer.

When I asked Viper about what dress she was going to wear....she said that she was going to budget a ridiculously low amount for wardrobe.

This made me sad.

Every woman deserve a million dollar wedding dress.

Every woman deserves to stun the entire world, even if for only those few moments when they stroll down the aisle.

I really don't know Viper all that well, and who am I to impose why warped standards on her?

But none the less....Klecko simply wants her to have a moment to remember.

So about a month ago, just following our Oktoberfest Retail, Viper was in my office with Massage Nun Sister Rosalind.

Sister Rosalind is in her mid 80's, and as you can imagine.....she's seen a few brides in her day, so I began a conversation with these 2 women about marriage and wedding dresses.

While this took place, I multi tasked and pulled an image off of Google of Princess Grace with a picture of Kate spliced next to it.

Kate wore a dress that was based off of Graces at the most recent royal wedding.

As the 3 of us peered into the monitor, I made mention that Kate's dress showed some additional cleavage and if I had it my way......she would have made a more prudent selection like Grace had.

Of course I said this with a smirk, and as Sister Rosalind embraced me, and the conservative ideologies I professed...Viper just rolled her eyes.

For the next few moments, the Nun preached the virtues of sewing in modesty panels to all woman's garments. Even the Sisters utilize these for Habits that have key-holes openings the size of a guitar pick.

"One wouldn't want to cause a priest to stumble by showing their boosems" we were told.

Eventually these 2 remarkable women left my office, and I went about my business.

Tick-Tock goes the clock, time passes and I began to wonder.......

"Who designed Princess Grace's wedding dress"?

Other than watching Project Runway, Klecko knows very little about women's fashion, but he has seen every Alfred Hitchcock film about dozens of times.

If you are one of "those" people who watch credits when films are over, chances are you've seen the name Edith Head.

Edith has won more fashion awards and dressed more stars than anybody in the history of Hollywood.

In fact, Grace Kelly didn't really hit it big time until she starred with Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.

This was her 4th film.

High Noon, was her 3rd flick, and she was pretty "hot" in that picture, but truth be told....that was kinda a bit role.

Rear Window on the other hand was the work that put her over the top.

Leave it to Hitchcock to make the real protagonist of this film be a confident-diva from high society.

Edith Head was the one person who was fully responsible for transforming this actress (whose previous role had been a pacifist-religious zealot) into a high fashion, trend setting woman of power.

Some have suggested that this role Grace played opposite of Stewart was one of the primary components that made who ever that royal dude she married, fall in love for her.

I get it.

I am a guy.

Guys like extremes.

If I had to choose between a cocky-immaculate woman, or a Steppford wife, I too would take the former.


To my dismay, it was some woman I had never heard of, a woman from MGM studio's.

As I continued researching through info provided by the internet, I came to find out that MGM had gifted her the dress, and the woman who designed this work of art had recently done Elizabeth Taylor's bridal gown.

Hmmmm, but weren't Grace Kelly and Edith Head friends?

Well according to a quote I ran across, Edith said something like.........

"Of the thousands of people and animals I have dressed over the years, I have enjoyed working with Grace Kelly the most.....SHE IS MY FRIEND"!

So not I am sitting in my office, I'm sitting in perfect silence, and I begin to feel a little sick to my stomach.

I don't know any of the parties in this story, but I just sat there picturing Edith Head finding out about the plans for this Grace to marry. The woman she admired, the woman that she had a big part in developing....launching.

The woman she considered to be her favorite client, and friend.

I'm guessing Edith Head probably sat by the phone, assuming Grace would be calling to set up a meeting for measurements and design strategy.

I'm guessing that time passed, and Edith just figured that Grace was overwhelmed and either she, or a team member would be making contact that was overdue.

Then I'm guessing that either an industry friend, a blurb on the radio, or phone call from a colleague informed her......

"Grace Kelly had sold you out."

What would it mean to you if you were the top in your industry and you had won every award there was to win?

What would it mean to you if you had been blessed enough to meet pretty much every celebrity in Hollywood's bouquet of actors?

What would any of this mean.....the fat paychecks, social events, limos and champagne....if the one person who you loved most didn't select you for a moment in their life that would be remembered across the globe for 100 years.

I have heard the the dress was eventually shipped to some museum in Pennsylvania, or wherever Grace Kelly originates from, and on the 50th anniversary people circle navigated the globe to just stare at it. From all accounts, in several weeks more people came to view this dress, and it got more visual hits than anything else that had been displayed in that building for decades.

Through the use of Google I tried to find out if there ever was some kind of a show down where Edith and Grace discussed what happened.

All I could find was that Edith was "disappointed".

Disappointed, or crushed?

I wonder.

With that, I threw history back into the past, turned the light off in my office and hopped into the bread truck with a grin on my face.

The crew at our bakery might not be famous, but at least it is my hope that when Viper gets married, she will have piece of mind in knowing that....

She has Hennessy.

She has me.

And she even has a Massage Nun that would never sell her out.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Advanced French Breads and New York Hurricanes

Over there, around the corner, up on top of the hill.......

There sits Klecko on a throne of regret.

When you are a Pollack, when you are the last born, when your immaturity level is high......

It's natural to be a smart a**.

About 350 some Blog Posts ago, I recall writing a rant entitled something like......

The French or New Yorkers, who do you hate more?

If I recall, it got more bounce than a fat kid on a trampoline on my Facebook wall.

When I posed this question, I was mostly talking about the French and New Yorkers in "Baking Terms", however......both of these camps have strong identities that make it easy for people to point fingers at.

Both camps are proud.

Both camps are resilient.

And both camps coincidentally resurfaced into this bakers mundane life this week.

Just days ago Hurricane Sandy slammed the eastern seaboard, and so much damage was done it seemed so daunting.

I sent texts back and forth with Nico "The Scone Widows Daughter" and she said her and her boyfriend had been living at an equivalent to a Motel 6 just out of NYC on the Jersey side.

The 2 of them just moved out there, and they placed their belongings in a monthly storage locker on Staten Island.

Odds are all of their gear is trashed.

When the storm hit, the staff at their hotel ditched for 72 hours.

Everybody just sat in darkness.

Everybody sat silently and wondered if the populace was going to erupt like it did at the Louisiana Dome during Katrina where people raped and murdered one another in the process of survival.

But everybody pretty much chilled.

Nico is on a program where she needs to get to a methadone clinic each day.

This takes gas.

Yesterday they sat in a line for 3 hours, only to find out gas would not be available.

I am worried, and I am not.

As much grief as I have given chefs and bakers from New York.....they are proud, they are resilient.....and, they practice mercy.

Nico is going to be OK, New York will save her.

I believe this with all my heart.

I could go on and on about how horrified I have been by this weather tragedy, but you have CNN for things like that.

As soon as I post this post, it is off to bed for a couple of hours, and then back to the bakery to set up our French Retail sale.

Like the New Yorkers, I have been harsh on my French colleagues, but truth be told......

Sure, they can be so......well, so French I guess, but I gotta tell ya, those cats can bake.

Many consumers view French breads as baguettes mixed with a lean dough (flour-water-salt and yeast), or maybe a brioche........but they have such a strong collection of terrific, changing recipes.

Let me just scratch the surface and explain some of the French loaves I worked on throughout the day.

#1 The Normandy Loaf -

When you make a "Normandy" there are 2 basic rules........

The first one is that the entire liquid content of the bread dough has to be apple juice.

The second one is that your flour weight has to be divided into 3 equal parts of Patent Flour, Whole Wheat Flour, and Rye.

When this is mixed together, the final product doesn't look all that sexy.

There are no bells and whistles.....

But this is a good, hearty bread that will take you to the gate of heaven and back.

#2 Honey-Brie-Millet Loaves -
This bread is sweet, soft and almost candy like, however the millet (which is mixed into the interior, and egg washed onto the crumb wall) gives it a wonderful-wonderful texture.

#3 Red Wine / Black Pepper Sourdough -
Praise the saints of Paris.....the entire liquid base of this dough is dark red wine. I prefer Chianti if I get my druthers, but anything dark will do.

When you pull this bread out of the is Christ like. The smell is liberating and intoxicating. But bakers.....remember when you bake with all that extra booze in your bread, you'll want to bump your yeast and salt levels to compensate for the wine draining the yeasts energy.

Did I mention that if mixed properly.....your dough is a pinkish-blue?

#4 Dijon-Red Pepper-Mushroom Loaves -

In my humble opinion,  I really think that the Christ not only died for your sins....but so you could have the bounty of this bread as well.

It is nothing short of a JACKPOT.

How often do you get to say that?

It is oh-so-tricky to make however, with the high level of Dijon mustard, and the moisture from the peppers and mushrooms.....this doesn't leave a lot of room for liquid.

But if you are patient, and play around with this formula.......


Anyways.....I will have about 50 different French items for sale.....

Apple Gruyere Coffee Cakes, Ham & Gruyere Puff Pastry, Almond Filled Croissants, Eclairs....blah-blah-blah,

Much of this, and without a doubt.....

The best of these pastry items were put together by Hennessy and her crew.

But with all this said..........

New York / New Jersey and the entire east coast of America, we are rooting for you.

And you French bakers.......I will always remain humbly in your debt.

The Last American Baker