Handling criticism

Discussion in 'Baker Banter' started by Irish lass 77, Apr 26, 2018.

  1. Irish lass 77

    Irish lass 77 Member

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    so, I live in a small village in Vermont. We have a general store and that’s about it. I enjoy baking. Recently the general store started selling cookies I bake. Nothing fancy, just 3-4 cookies in a ziplock bag. I’ve sold about 30+ bags. I know everyone has different tastes but I’m going cookoo crazy trying to find “the perfect chocolate chip cookie” it’s amazing how many variables go into making a cookie. Anyhow, I have made 4 different types of cookies using different flours, melting butter, you name it. My husband informed me that he got feedback on one of my batches. The person said the cookie was “so hard they almost broke their teeth” now this was a couple days after I had baked that batch (don’t know which one ) I’m pretty sensitive and this made me very upset. I guess I don’t take criticism well at ALL. Anyone else out there have some experiences like this.
    Thanks for reading!
     
    Irish lass 77, Apr 26, 2018
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  2. Irish lass 77

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Totally understand. We’ve all been there; baked only to discover a problem after the fact. :(

    We bake from the heart, so naturally it’s upsetting when the product doesn’t meet expectations. Your reaction is normal—I don’t think any baker is able to pull their emotions completely out of the equation. But it’s important to process those emotions productively. I always say there is no greater teacher than failure. What you learn from this will make you a better baker.

    You are actually fortunate the person clearly communicated the specific problem with the cookie. Most people are very reluctant to report negative information about handcrafted products. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it about.

    Try to take a step back and separate the emotional investment you made from the actual product produced. Recognize that the feedback is not an insult. It’s a statement of fact about the product. Now consider what you have to do to rectify and guard against such problems in the future.

    Go back to the fundamentals. It illustrates the importance of thoroughly testing a recipe, including performance in storage, before a product leaves your kitchen. Whether you bake as a hobby or professionally there’s an investment in materials and time. There’s no getting around that. Every committed baker runs tests, hobbyists, food blogger, cottage food baker, local commercial bakery, Bon Appetit food editors, or restaurant pastry chef. R&D is a major part of the process.

    Recipe testing doesn’t end when the tray is pulled out of the oven. Observing and documenting how a product changes in storage and under different storage conditions is a critical part of recipe testing. Every good cookbook will explain how to store the finished product. That knowledge comes from actual testing storage conditions.

    To minimize time and financial investment, take a different approach to recipe selection. Rather than test 3 or 4 different recipes, decide the qualities you want in the cookie, then use baking science to develop your own recipe or narrow down published recipes to produce the specific qualities you want in a cookie. Instead of jumping from recipe to recipe, tweak the recipe you select. If you jump from recipe to recipe, you start from ground zero each time. More time and money is then wasted.

    You already recognize that there’s no such thing as the “ultimate/best” chocolate chip cookie given personal preference. So let that understanding be your guide. Decide what YOU want in your cookie. Then use science to create THAT cookie.

    Want a thin, crisp cookie? Use all granulated sugar.

    Want a thick chewy cookie? Use 70% - 75% brown sugar to granulated sugar.

    Want a cakey cookie? Use baking powder instead of baking soda.

    You can beat ensure quality control by baking by metric weight. If you are not baking by ratios and weight, I recommend you transition to that approach. The most important factor in quality and consistency is ratio of all other ingredients to flour.

    Since you did not note the recipe/batches you cannot go back to analyze it. Moving forward you can take the above approach to create the quality of cookie you want. Also research the causes of hard cookies before you try another bake.


    These are the areas to look at:

    Sugar: hygroscopic properties of sugar are key here. The flour to sugar ratio in a chocolate chip cookie should be around 1:1.10. Sugar is a tenderizer. Too little sugar produces a hard cookie.

    Fat: fat is also a tenderizer. The flour to fat ratio varies depending on the butterfat content. When using a high butterfat butter, flour to butter ratio as low as 1:.65 works fine. I’d recommend you stay in between .65 - .75. Above .75 can produce a greasy cookie.

    It’s not just too little fat, but incorrect creaming of butter. Creaming I’d say 99.9% of recipes and cookbooks teach the wrong method of creaming. The link below will explain the correct creaming method. It s contrary to what recipes and cookbooks instruct. But trust me on this. This is what many culinary programs teach. I’ve used this method since 2001. And I think I make a pretty good chocolate chip cookie.

    https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/12/cookie-science-creaming-butter-sugar.html


    Flour: brand is important as the protein content varies by brand. For chocolate chip cookies a higher protein flour unbleached works best. I prefer King Arthur AP flour with 11.8% protein.

    Brands: brands really really matter. Cane sugar carmalizes (Maillard reaction), but sugar beet sugar does not. Caramelized sugar is key to flavor and color. As mentioned above, flour protein varies by brand. Even the brand and type of salt matters. I bake exclusively with Diamond Crystal as it’s finer grain and less salty than Morton kosher salt. So understanding brands will help you create the flavor, color, and texture you want in a cookie.

    In response to a poster on another thread I discussed some of the fundamentals of chocolate chip cookies. I created a recipe to demonstrate what I discussed. The recipe includes the brand of ingredients I used since there are so many variables by brand. I also included baking techniques (aged and imaged dough; single baked and twice baked). There’s pics of the baked cookies.


    https://www.baking-forums.com/threads/help-why-does-my-baking-always-turn-out-like-this.4459/
     
    Norcalbaker59, Apr 26, 2018
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  3. Irish lass 77

    Becky Administrator

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    That's some seriously good advice from @Norcalbaker59! I hope it helps you @Irish lass 77 :)

    It's always hard to hear that someone doesn't like something that you have put your heart and soul into making, so I understand how you must be feeling about it. It might be worth asking other people for their honest opinions - that way you can gauge whether the feedback was just a one-off (maybe it was someone with bad teeth, who knows!) or whether it's an issue you need to address.

    If you have transitioned from a home baker to semi-professional then it can be difficult to change your mind set when it comes to feedback. Try not to view feedback as criticism, view it as an opportunity to learn more about the market you want to sell to. It doesn't necessarily mean that your product is bad, it just tells you more about what the consumer wants. If you're selling your cookies then you can't just make them what you like, it also has to be what other people want to buy if you want to make money. Obviously, it's easier when the two align though ;)
     
    Becky, Apr 27, 2018
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  4. Irish lass 77

    -Daniel- Well-Known Member

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    I view any criticism as an opportunity to learn and improve.

    OH, unless it's to do with how unhealthy my baked goods are. Aint nobody got time for that.
     
    -Daniel-, May 2, 2018
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  5. Irish lass 77

    Becky Administrator

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    Haha! I see nothing wrong with making unhealthy food, as long as you know it's unhealthy ;)
     
    Becky, May 3, 2018
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  6. Irish lass 77

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Lol. High Five:)
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 3, 2018
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  7. Irish lass 77

    Irish lass 77 Member

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    I totally agree. Thank you very much for the feedback!!!
     
    Irish lass 77, May 10, 2018
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  8. Irish lass 77

    Irish lass 77 Member

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    Wow I can’t like this enough!!!!! It’s amazing and SO informative. I never realized that there was so much science involved. But thank you so much for the links and your amazing response. I’ve been so busy baking and trying to keep up with house and 3 kids I haven’t had a chance to respond. I’m slowly finding out what people like. It’s definitely a learning experience, and trial and error. Some days I’m so exhausted and feel like I can’t do all this and some days I LOVE it. Kind of like my children, some days they drive me crazy and some days I don’t want them to grow up
    Thanks again
    Eileen
     
    Irish lass 77, May 10, 2018
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  9. Irish lass 77

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    It’s nice to hear from others who love baking. Baking is a life long journey. I’m still learning. Still loving it.

    Enjoy your babies, they grow up so fast. And your baking will be cherished memories. My boys still glow and smile every time they come over and see something baked waiting for them. It nice to hear them say to their friends, “see didn’t I tell you my mom can bake?”

    Food connects you to your family and your community. Your cookies are becoming memories for you children and those children whose mother’s buy them for their children.
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 12, 2018
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