, , , ,

As you might imagine, menu planning is my favorite part of opening Flour + Co.  If it wasn’t my favorite part, I’d say that I should rethink this opening a bakery thing.  However, if I didn’t also enjoy all of the other aspects of opening and running a bakery, including the very long hours that are about to take over my life, I’d also say that I should reconsider.

You see, this is where many potential restaurant owners get themselves into trouble.  Romanticizing restaurant ownership is easy to do when you start daydreaming about all of the delicious things you would serve or the favorite wines that you’d pour, plus the smiles on peoples faces when they have just eaten your creations.  This is truly the fun stuff!  But, there is so much more, and sadly some of it lands far from the fun tree.

Today, I’m only talking fun because I’m at the point where I need to finalize my menu.  Years ago I started compiling a list of all of my favorite baked goods and months ago I narrowed this list down to those that fit into my modern American theme.  It’s harder than it may sound because there was a lot that I had to consider as I was doing this.  My stomach couldn’t do all of the talking.

A glimpse into some of the products at Flour + Co – ready for an official tasting

What’s my mission and vision of the whole concept and do these baked goods fit into this?  How do I differentiate myself from all of the other good bakeries out there?  What kind of space do I have?  Do I have the space and enough time in the day to produce everything on my list? Can I use ingredients in multiple recipes or would I have to bring in a special ingredient just for one recipe?  Where am I going to store all of the ingredients that I need to accomplish my production list? Will I be able to make reasonable margins without charging untouchable prices?  And the list goes on…

Next, I took my draft list of products and started recipe testing.  Often I start with the basic baking ratio for a product (check out this book if you want to read more on baking ratios!). For example, a biscuit is made with 3 parts flour, 2 parts liquid, and 1 part fat.  I, then, play around with this basic ratio by adding additional ingredients, changing the types of flour, fat or liquid that I use, and adjusting the ratios in little ways.  The technique used to make the product is also something to consider.  Finally, I test it, taste it (along with my husband or whoever will give me honest feedback), make notes, adjust it, and test it again (repeat as needed) to come up with the final recipe.  It has to be just right!  Then, on to the next product.

The main ingredients: flour, butter, liquid (such as buttermilk)
Trying heavy cream for the liquid in this batch
Combining the butter with flour mixture in food processor
Ready to pull together and roll out
In the oven they go
The biscuits are slowly rising in the oven
Just out of the oven, cooling
The final buttermilk biscuit recipe and a few variations – ready to be tasted for feedback.

Here I am with a potential list of baked goods for my opening lineup.  It’s pare down time because I know this won’t all fit and it’s just my day one list (need to keep a few tricks up my sleeve), and I have space planning to do and lots of it!  I need to think about menu board spacing, case/display spacing, kitchen prep space, oven capacity….

You see, I have a tendency to over commit when it comes to the laundry list of baked goods that I want to offer.  If I don’t filter enough, my husband often has to bring me back to realty.  I may get frustrated and annoyed when he questions my list.  I mean, of course I can do it all.  But, I quietly take a look at what I’ve laid in front of him (in private) and mark a few things off of my list.  The next day I do the same (this process may repeat itself a number of times) until I finally have a reasonable final lineup.  Yep, very scientific, but it works for me.  We make a mighty good team.

News flash: I’m only through the baked goods and I have all of my menu planning to do, so I’m on to coffee, breakfast and lunch.  The baked goods obviously take center stage, but these other categories deserve attention too.  Same questions, space issues, and so on.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The big reveal will be in March (crossing my fingers and you should cross yours too!), so stay tuned for the final final.

To read more on opening my bakery in San Francisco, follow the Flour + Co blog!