Another Day Without Cookies…

Unfortunately, I don’t have any cookies for you today.

Again. I know.

Blame a six day stretch at work, laziness, or the fact that I haven’t found a good vegan sriracha recipe I want to try. (And I’m going to leave it at that so you can stew in the suspense of what kind of cookie could possibly taste good while laced with sriracha…)

But I thought you could all use a little update on life. And cookie trucks.

Mainly cookie trucks.

Because that’s what I’ve decided I’d like to do. Drive a cookie truck, that is. Because you cannot believe how incredibly cool and exciting the Bay Area food truck community is. I’ve spent the last couple of months getting to know as much as I can about the food trucks and the food truck organizations and personalities in the area–and I’m seeing a serious lack of vegan cookies.

But they DO have a karaoke ice cream truck...and that's all kinds of AMAZING.

So I’ve started doing the research, and, besides the fact that it’s going to be exponentially more financially difficult to start up than just a regular ol’ farmers market type business, it’s the best route to take for growth, versatility, and exposure.

My goal is to spend some more time getting to know the Bay Area food truck world and to start building a business plan that will help me conquer the cupcakes, one cookie at a time.

If you’d like to support my efforts, you can always donate at my GoFundMe page (&, trust me, every single penny is appreciated!!).

So there’s that. Until next time, you can find me at the Moveable Feast,

Love & Cookies,

KP

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A Blogger’s Lament

I remember a time when I was good at keeping up with a blog.

It was easy: the content was available, the time was plenty, and the schedule was actually mandated by my employer. (I think that last part helped the most.)

I was writing for the Columbia Arts Initiative blog, and I was seeing 3-4 pieces of theatre a week–and on weeks when I saw less, I was being sent by the CUAI to various events around the city to review. Blogging was a piece of cake.

And then I started a blog about baking (speaking of cake).

I read a lot of baking blogs. A LOT. And the one thing that goes through my mind consistently as I flit from blog to blog, recipe to recipe, is: “How the hell do these women have the time or money to come up with a new recipe, write about it, and still have a life and/or a job and/or a family every single day?” I am confuzzled. (Which is like being confused, but cuter.)

I work in retail. That means that my schedule is dictated by the mall’s hours, the demands of the store, and the season, as well as the availability of my coworkers. That means that my wallet is often only as full as paying off my college loans and my car and my gas and my monthly expenses will allow. That means sometimes I work “clopeners” and get a few hours of sleep (and blog reading time) in between night and morning shifts. That means that I can’t always afford to have a batch of Garlic and Hazelnut cookies in the oven.

But, for all of my complaining, there are women (and men!) out there who somehow manage to keep up with their cooking blogs on a usually-daily basis–despite the fact that they have children and jobs and sometimes even reasons to leave their houses that don’t involve running errands. So I’m going to work on that.

I may not always have another cookie recipe for you, but I’m going to do my darndest to keep you up to date on the growth and development of KP’s Cookies…

So look forward to more. I’ll be here, ready and waiting for ya!

Love & Cookies,

KP

PS If any bloggers out there want to share some tips on blogging time management, I’m all ears. Or eyes, I suppose, if you reply in the comments section…

Down With Cupcakes!

Warning: this post contains self-realization and some extremely tenuous metaphors, as well as a fairly ridiculous call to action. It’s long-winded and crazy, kind of like me. It starts out with a depressingly blatant personal history, but I promise that it gets much more interesting if you hang on just a paragraph or three. Thanks, the mgmt.

Those of you who know me well know that I have been struggling with an eating disorder since 2001. I’ve been through all manners of calorie restriction and over exercise, and my weight has fluctuated from 103 to 150 lbs and back again. I’ve relapsed three times, and it’s caused me to miss out on some incredibly important life experiences as well as lose friends and life dreams.

I feel like this last year and a half has been my time of healing, despite the constant struggle between my desire to be “normal” and my desire to be thin. I finally feel like I’m starting to find a balance–and that balance began when I became a vegan in August.

As crazy as this might sound, until this year I never tried my own cookies. Since the days of baking giant bowls of cookies every night for my friends at the University of Florida, I have always relied on others’ feedback to direct my recipes because I was too afraid of the calories. And as crazy as this might sound, since I’ve become a vegan–often considered an “extreme” way of eating–I’ve found a balance with my diet. And in finding that balance–in realizing that enjoying a cookie doesn’t mean that I’m “cheating” or that by eating less than 130 g of protein or more than 200 g of carbs I’m not going to suddenly lose my ability to fit into my favorite jeans–in finding that balance I’ve finally, for the first time, tasted my cookies. And I realized: I’ve been missing out.

Decorated sugar cookies I baked but did not try in 2008

I’ve been missing out, and I’ve been looking at my own body in reference to the fitness models I’ve idolized the same way I imagine that cookies look at cupcakes. (Don’t run away–I promise that this metaphor will make sense!) Cupcakes, like models, are a beautiful, elegant ideal, perfect for display. Cupcakes, like models, can be dressed up in a million different ways, the perfect, gorgeous compliment to any main event. Cupcakes, like models, are meant to stand alone, a decadent “mine-all-mine” experience. The cupcake trend just makes sense.

Or does it?

Which brings me to my point: I hate cupcakes.

Okay, I realize that the above is an extremely inflammatory, potentially future-friendship-killing, slightly exaggerated statement with a number of exceptions (like the amazing chocolate cupcakes I once shared with my friend Ian over an exceptionally paired glass of Malbec at Sweet Surrender before going to Marie’s Crisis to sing show tunes in the Village)…

So let me qualify: I don’t hate cupcakes. I just really don’t understand them. They’re not good. I mean, I get it; they’re mini cakes. Everyone gets one, and no one has to worry about getting the smallest piece because your father, who wields a power saw just fine while tinkering in the garage on the weekends, suddenly develops a mean lack of depth perception and scale as soon as someone asks him to start slicing a birthday cake. But isn’t sharing the cake part of the experience of eating a cake? Cake is about celebrating a big event or a milestone or a “just because” together. Cupcakes take the reason for cake out of cake.

Too pretty to eat...

And, frankly, cake isn’t all that good. In fact, if the words “fudge” or “ice cream” are not included, or the otherwise bready, cloyingly sweet “confection” isn’t covered in icing and sprinkles, I don’t recommend wasting your time eating it. (And don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about: at least half the kids at your class birthday party in elementary school licked all of the frosting off of the Publix cupcakes your mom sent you to school with, and then threw away the bready hunks wrapped in cupcake paper on their way out the door to recess.)

I understand that there are some incredibly talented cupcake artists out there, but honestly, I’m less impressed by those who can dress up a cupcake in all sorts of icing swirls and gum paste bells and whistles, and more impressed by people who can bake something that other people want to eat. Call me crazy.

That’s why I love cookies. No, cookies don’t (usually) have the visual appeal of cupcakes. You can dress them up with frosting and sprinkles, but they’ll never reach the same height of elegance associated with their cake-y cousins. But who needs that? Like a model who stands isolated on the pages of a magazine, a cupcake will never be a part of the communal, down-to-earth, just plain tasty experience that is a batch of cookies. You can share them, you can save them, you can savor them. No one seems to mind that they’re not all the same shape–though they’re all made from the same batter, every cookie is unique. And even in their uniqueness, they’re all-and pardon my colloquialism, but there’s really no other word for it–just yummy.

Perfect Imperfections

The more I think about it, the more I see the parallels between myself–a uniquely shaped cookie–and the fitness models I aspired to be. And I realized that I’d rather be able to fit in the cookie jar with my uniquely shaped friends and family than be displayed behind glass in someone’s artisan bakery. I’m not going to let go of my health–I’m going to continue to find the balance–and if that means sharing a vegan cookie with my brother in between my green juice and my roasted tempeh, then good. I’m not going to miss out on the experience of being human because I’m worried about how I’ll look in my cupcake wrapping. (I told you the metaphors would be tenuous!)

And so, my promised call to action: I think it’s time to buck the cupcake trend. It’s time to say unto the food industry: You can have your Cupcake Wars and your Magnolia Bakery and your trendy little personal cupcake box. It’s time to say, “I’ve got a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies in the oven, and I’m perfectly okay with that.” And so I say: DOWN WITH CUPCAKES, UP WITH COOKIES!

(And if you’re with me, I’ve got some vegan chocolate chip cookies I’d like to share with you!)

 Love & Cookies,
KP
REMINDER: A donation to KP’s Cookies brings us all one step closer to toppling the cupcake empire (Click here!)

Taking a leap…

Two days ago, I drove to San Francisco.

This, if you don’t know me very well, is a big deal.

I live an hour and a half away, and I’ve never driven on these California freeways for an extended period of time, AND I don’t have a GPS. Not even a GPS app on my iPhone, if you can believe it.

I don’t have a great track record for finding my way in a new city–in fact, I regularly got lost when I lived in NYC, which, if you’ve never been, is laid out in an easy-to-get-around-with-the-possible-exception-of-the-village grid. But still I got in my car and drove north.

I wasn’t going to San Francisco to hang out or even to explore; I was going to San Francisco because the Small Business Administration was holding a seminar entitled “From Kitchen to Market: Selling Your Specialty Foods.” As soon as I saw the title, I realized that was what I needed to be doing with my day off from work.

While the seminar was targeted more toward potential wholesale and packaged goods businesses (like people selling hot sauce or prepackaged cookies), I learned some invaluable lessons, and the seminar helped put a lot of things into perspective.

I am starting to get very excited about my first real venture into the entrepreneurial world–I finally have direction, and things are starting to look like they’re going to fall into place. I’m confident that I’m going to be able to be up and running by the spring or early summer, provided I can put the funds together.

I think moving out to California was the best possible move I could have made…this is the year of taking leaps and not looking back. This is the year that I do things like start a business or drive to (and from!) San Francisco without a GPS and without getting lost. This is the year that I spend my day off learning how a business is run, and the year that things like business licenses and health permits and operating costs and business plans become part of my vocabulary.

I’m so excited that I’m finally going after my dreams instead of just hoping they’ll come true. I’m learning that “hope,” in the context I’ve always used it, is a victim’s word. I’m finally taking charge…so you can all expect to see good things as the days pass and my business takes flight.

Thank you all for being part of my journey, GPS or no,

Love and Cookies,

KP

P.S. If you’d like to donate to my startup fund, please visit my donation page. Even a few dollars helps–I have started a wish list on the site, so you can see what your donation is helping to fund! Thank you in advance for any and all support!!!

 

Donate to KP’s Cookies

Friends, Romans, Cookie Lovers, lend me your cookie jars:

I have taken a giant leap–head first–into the scary world of business ownership. In order to fund my project, I need your help.

I need AT LEAST $5000 to get started–so that I can do important things like rent a commercial kitchen & buy health permits & liability insurance. I also need to buy packing and shipping supplies, and pay for entry fees at my local farmers’ markets (not to mention the flour and sugar with which to make the cookies!).

Why should you donate? Because the sooner that I am able to get up and running, the sooner I’ll be able to figure out how to pack and ship my cookies to you!

Every dollar that you donate puts another cookie in the oven–and also gives me an oven to put them in! I’m not rolling in dough, but the sooner I have some funds, I can be rolling in cookie batter!

Please, please, please donate–even just a little bit will help! You can donate at my GoFundMe page–and, if you love my cookies, send the link to your friends, family, and distant Facebook acquaintances! I thank you so, so, so much, from the very bottom of my heart,

Love and Cookies,

KP

It’s All About the Process

So, I wanted to talk a little bit about making cookies.

Specifically, I wanted to talk about my process, and how I’ve finally, finally learned how to streamline it.

When it comes to baking, I used to be a haphazard everything-in-the-pantry-ends-up-spread-out-on-the-counter- and a if-it-wasn’t-in-the-recipe-I-won’t-touch-it-or-else type. A combination of the two can be lethal. I’ve learned over the past several years, however, that a good recipe is all in the deviation, and that a good day in the kitchen is one that’s organized and planned.

Sounds rather contradictory, no?

Sugary caramel meltaways!

Well, here’s how I bake cookies:

Step one: I do my research. I look at other peoples’ recipes and see what has worked for them. That often means hours (literally, hours) of surfing the internet, trying different search terms and reading every recipe that looks like it might be worth its salt (literally and figuratively) and then comparing the ingredients, the ratios, the results, and, when applicable, the reviews.

I ask myself, do I want chewy or crunchy? Puffy or flat? Rich or light? And then, after looking through the recipes, I start to write. I’ll have guides near me, like Jeff Potter’s Cooking for Geeks or Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food, since they go in depth into the science (chemistry and mechanics) of the craft. Maybe a recipe looks good on paper, but I have to consider the potential outcomes as well as the alternatives. Recipes aren’t written in stone, and often they get better when you use them as a guide but not a commandment.

Then it comes time to test. This is where it can get tedious and often messy (and expensive!). One way I’ve started to combat the tedious mess (and, in a very slight way, the financial piece, although I’m taking suggestions for making extra ingredients appear out of thin air…) is by using weights instead of volumes. In other words: instead of  spilling sugar all over my counter while trying to pack it into one of my 18 measuring cups or several bowls, I now use one bowl and a food scale. Not only are my measurements more accurate, I can pour all of my ingredients over one large bowl*, and I can do the clean up in less than 5 minutes while the cookies bake.

Using my grandmother's food scales to test a Peanut Apple Pretzel Cookie recipe

*I do use a small bowl to set the flax egg up at least 15 minutes before I start baking; the flax needs time to absorb the liquid before I can add it to the wet ingredients, so I do have a small second bowl to clean…

Weighing ingredients is also more cost effective, because I’m using the exact same amount of flour, sugar, etc etc in every single recipe. Using measuring cups is incredibly inaccurate; I can scoop 1 cup of flour 5 times, and get a different weight with each scoop, depending on how I pack the cup. With weights, I can, at the very least, budget my baking so I’ll know exactly how much flour I will get out of each bag.

Now, when it comes to the actual recipes, I go through several before I find the right one. A good example of this process can be found in my Divine Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, which took me a good four days to come up with and then test. Another is the last recipe I baked, the “More Than a Spoonful of Sugar” Caramel Meltaways. I’m still not 100% in love with the caramel recipe I used–I’m thinking of experimenting with coconut milk and oil to see if I get a richer flavor than using Soy creamer and vegan butter–but the cookie itself is exactly where I want it….and it only took me three tries!

Making caramel

Both the first and second recipes I made up came out too bready. The first recipe was similar to my Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I used oil instead of butter, and cornstarch as a thickener. My brother said that they tasted like pancakes (and then asked for me to pour maple syrup on them…).

Not so yummy pancake balls...

The second recipe was a complete deviation from my norm: I used soy milk in the recipe, but that thickened the dough to the point of un-stir-ability (and yes, that’s a word now.) They came out extremely dry, and the caramel seeped out of the bottom and adhered to the parchment paper.

Dry, dry, and dry...and all of the caramel melted out during baking!

The third recipe was exactly what I wanted–I eschewed the milks and the starches, and went for the simplest combination of ingredients–and it worked! Now I just have to tweak the caramels, and I’ll have another killer cookie to add to my arsenal.

Getting ready for the final test...

Speaking of which, now that I’m an official business, I’m going to work on not making killer cookies–i.e. I’m on my way to finding a good commercial kitchen and a health permit, as well as some good old fashioned insurance. Since I’m still small-time, I started a GoFundMe account. If you want to help get KP’s Cookies off the ground, I would really appreciate any and all donations–or, if you know friends who might like to help, I would love it if you could pass my link along to them. Frankly, the sooner I have all of the necessary business-and-health-permit stuff taken care of, the sooner I can focus on important things, like actually shipping my cookies to all of you who have requested such a service.

If you’d like to donate, please click HERE-and thank you, thank you, thank you in advance, from the bottom of my heart,

Love and Cookies,

KP

P.S. I totally just realized that The Bloggess has a post about The Process too…