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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Column: This little piggy went to Farmers Market

    My Crookie roll, the sexy cousin of the cronut and cruffin.
    Silly rabbit, my Trix cereal bars are for everyone.
    Callebaut dipped Twinkies on a stick with a DQ crunch coat.

    As promised here in this column, I’m giving occasional status reports on the road from being simply a home cook to becoming a vendor at a local Farmers Market this season under the alias Uncle Biscuit.

    My first outings were the Waterford Farmers Market pop-up on April 27 and Bozrah Mother’s Day Market on May 11. I spent the week prior to each sale prepping foods and had cobbled together a kitchen schedule:

    Sun. & Mon.: NUTS! I’ve got four types of coated nuts on the menu — Nashville Hot Pecans, Cookied Cashews, Parmesan & Peppercorn Pecans and Koko Puffed Pistachios. Once these nuts are coated, baked and bagged, they have a shelf life of about a month. I can do these early in the week because some of the baked goods need to be as fresh as possible, which means they get oven time the night before the market.

    Tues. & Wed.: Scotcheroos and Rice Krispie cereal bars. Here’s the way I see it: All Rice Krispie treats have a texture that feels like it was born stale. They are chewy, and the coating of goo on the cereal puffs has turned the lightness into toughness. I’ve never been a fan, but hey, people like ’em. So I was trying my hand at dressing them up a bit and adding some real crunch and texture. I’ve made Coco Puff Double Chocolate treats, Pretzel and Peanut Butter treats, Biscoff and Heath Bar treats and even a Trix and white chocolate treat. All the cereal bars get made mid-week and then are shrink-wrapped for maximum “freshness.”

    Thurs. & Fri.: These are the days where I’m really burning the midnight oil. Quick breads and snack breads like my Twix Banana Bread bars get done on Thursday, because they need at least 24 hours in the fridge for the flavors to marry up. I prep the dough for my Bisconies on Thursday as well; because it’s such a soft dough, it needs to be scooped onto baking sheets and then into the fridge overnight to firm up. Any yeasted products like my rough puff pastry dough or my Cheech & Cheese sandwich rolls have to be made on Thursday night but baked on Friday night. Pies have to be baked early on Friday morning to give them time to cool completely to be shrink wrapped by the end of the day.

    No matter what I was thinking in advance of opening up shop at the Waterford FM, the reality was a little different. And the lessons learned and earned will carry me through the full season in Waterford (or wherever else I pop up):


    Dig if you will, the picture ... a big, puffy golden croissant with chocolate chip cookie dough bursting out from the folds of the dough. Crunchy on the outside, but the cookie dough is still gooey within the spiral of airy croissant. You’d think this was a typical American cultural appropriation, but you’d be wrong. This new trend debuted last December at Boulangerie Louvard in Paris and is currently all the rage. I spotted a story on delicious item a few weeks ago and decided to make some smaller cupcake-sized versions for Waterford. Sold ’em out. The response was so good, I opted to make them in a 5“ spiral Danish form for the Bozrah gig. Sold ‘em out again. Truth be told, I think the original French crookie looks a little gross, like a baking accident. Mine are sexier (see photo). I sampled an early version out to my friend Lisa and she told me, “Those crookies out to be illegal.” Crookies will be staying on the menu for the whole season.

    Chocolate-dipped Twinkies & Devil Dogs

    My buddy Mark brought me a chocolate-dipped Twinkie a couple months ago from a bakery in upstate NY. My first impression was a dismissive “carnival food.” Right up there with deep-fried Oreos. But it all came down to the quality of the chocolate and the additional texture from the nice snap of the chocolate bar coating. A very sumptuous snack. So I invested in about 20 lbs of Callebaut chocolate and I was off to the races testing these for my own menu. Learning how to temper the chocolate correctly to melt it and cool it back to a snappy solid is a messy, time-consuming chore. Plus the chocolate-dipped items are going to require their own cooler for the dog days of summer at the outdoor markets. I doubt I’m going to be making these available weekly.

    Planet of the Pie People

    I didn’t make any pies for Waterford, but afterward, I started testing a new recipe that I thought up: Apple, Mandarin and Lemon pie. And it was pretty damn good. So I bought a case of commercial 6“ crusts and popped out another batch for the Bozrah market. And it was the first item to sell out that Saturday. Ya know, there are cake people, there are cookie people ... and then there are pie people. I got the pie people. One guy bought two of them, figuring that he would’ve bought one 10” pie all for himself anyway. Another woman looked at the pie label quizzically, looked at me and asked earnestly, “What is the flavor profile of this pie?” I gave her the most concise description of the thought process that went into this recipe, and she responded with cold, hard cash. I will greet the pie people with new pies every week through this season.

    Samples, Samples, Samples!

    If shopping at Costco has taught me anything, it’s that people LOVE free food samples. The only samples I handed out in Waterford were small portions of the nuts. When I saw how quickly it turned browsers into buyers, I expanded the sampling selection to include the cereal bars in Bozrah. Which increased sales as well as the amount of goodwill, smiles and conversation from the attendees. And with that, my thinking did a little bit of a flip-flop. Going forward, I’m going to consider any money spent on making samples as part of my advertising budget, not just a loss-leader. Most advertising is based on promises. I can’t promise that my cooking will make your teeth whiter, but at the very least it’ll make you smile.

    Rich Swanson is a local cook who has had numerous wins in nationally sponsored recipe contests. He is also the layout specialist here at The Day.

    Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Rich Swanson can be reached at TheSurlyTable@gmail.com.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.