I literally cannot stop eating pickles and smoked cheddar. It is my go-to snack of the moment. It’s probably trying to off-set my sweets intake now that I’m baking all of the time. I was at the Plate and Parcel Holiday Market every Sunday from November 3rd until Christmas, and this is my first weekend off in 2 months. It was super fun, but holy shit is there a lot of competition. Do we really need 6 bakers? Do some of them really need to be in the same row as me (making almost the same shit as me)? As there was nothing I could do about it, I did my best to make it fun and still beneficial for me. I brought less and less product each week, so at least I wasn’t left with tons of leftovers and a sinking sense of defeat.
I also made it a point to meet lots of the other vendors, and spend money with them and/or give them free cake. This is the only way I know how to network. Biannual management seminars leave me folding in on myself in the corner, both desperately wishing for someone to acknowledge me and also willing myself invisible. Small talk is painful and tedious. Networking with other vendors is easy; they want to talk about their product and business plan. And I find myself learning from their stories while I share my own. We commiserate over the lack of customers, and excess food. We trade, so it doesn’t feel like a loss, because it isn’t. Maybe I didn’t get money for that mini bundt cake, but I got empanadas for lunch the next day, or a cup of coffee to keep me warm and awake, a pint of rosemary mint chip ice cream for midnight snacking, or even a half bushel of apples for work snacks throughout the week. I once “met” a woman on Instagram that makes ceramic mugs, and ended up trading her a loaf of grapefruit cake for a beautiful handmade mug. We met at one of her markets to make the trade, and it was a delight to meet her in person, with her group of friends supporting her at her table, reminding me that we all have cheerleaders behind us. The community has been so accepting and also eye-opening. I’m constantly learning, and will make better market choices because of it.
The mug from Nicole at Hygge Handmade Designs.
Some days the market left me feeling defeated and discouraged, a fraud in my TJ Maxx apron and nose ring. Who do I think I am starting my own business? I didn’t go to school for this. I have no background in baking or cooking. What right do I have to be here? I’m a baking imposter that can’t make a proper pie crust, pipe a rose well, or even fucking candy orange properly. Sometimes the thoughts swirl until T has to pick me up off the ground, feeding me a piece of cake to remind me that it’s good, and setting me back upright with my whisk and bowl. I start again, and hope the next market will be more profitable, but don’t discount this market because it still provided important lessons. And it introduced me to some lovely and creative humans that have the same shared passion of simply wanting to feed you.
The Tarty B. Someone once walked by and said the orange peel looks like meal worms. Sigh. I’m working on it.
One of the things I can work on for my next market is getting these candied orange peels right. They taste good, but they don’t look like the picture on Smitten Kitchen‘s page. And I suspect they’re crumblier and crunchier than intended. But I still put them on my chocolate orange cakes, which I lovingly dubbed The Tarty B, because perfection is an illusion, and people shouldn’t be kept from these delectable cakes because I’m not happy with the candied orange yet. I would never sell a single cake if I waited for my brain to tell me it was perfect. When these babies turned out too hard, I’d chop them up into little manageable bits to sprinkle over the cakes. Otherwise, they were placed on top of the cake with 2-3 of their friends. We’re not aiming for perfection here (despite what my brain craves), but we are aiming for improvement. The flavor is there, which is most important. The aesthetic will come.
All of these gentle reminders keep me going.
Candied Orange Peel (or orangettes)
8 oz water
8 oz sugar + extra for coating
Optional: chocolate for dipping
Start by setting 2 pots of water on the stove over high heat.
Slice the ends off of each orange (the butts, if you will). Slowly peel each orange, trying to keep the peel in large solid chunks. Slice the peel thinly. Reserve oranges for mimosas. Obvi.
Place the sliced orange peels into one of the boiling pots of water, boiling for 5-10 minutes. Drain and rinse, then repeat with the second pot of water. While that one is boiling, get the simple syrup going by mixing 8oz water with 8oz sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat in a medium sauce pan and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Add in the orange peels once they’re done with their second bath. Allow to simmer for 1 hour. Covering is recommended, though you could also add extra water and sugar if needed. Always add in equal parts. KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THESE FUCKERS. They like to burn and stick to the pan. Be diligent, and it won’t happen to you. After the hour, remove them from the pot and place them to drain on a cooling rack. After an hour or so, coat them in sugar and place back on the cooling rack. Once they’re fully cooled, which can take up to 24 hours, place them in an airtight container. You could also opt to dip them in some melted chocolate, and allow them to dry on parchment paper. To melt the chocolate, just microwave it in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until fully melted.
If yours turn out better than mine, don’t even tell me, because I’ll just get pissed.
How adorable is my branding? Thanks to my incredibly talented friend, Pam!