Most of you know that I'm from Chicago. I grew up there and when I was in middle school, my family moved to Michigan. So, I'm definitely a Midwest girl that left my heart in California long before I'd ever even been here. I left the Midwest the second I got the chance and I've never looked back.
So when I came across Cacao Sweets & Treats on Instagram, I was actually sad that I live in California and not back in the Chicago area because that meant I couldn't go into this adorable bakery and just eat everything! Since going organic, I can't really enjoy eating out anymore because I'm an ingredient snob. I really care about the quality of ingredients and what I put into my body. How I feel plays a huge role in why I care so much, but they go hand in hand. And, since opening Mimi's Cookie Bar I have yet to find an organic bakery that looks as good as what I make. Because sometimes eating something you didn't make tastes better just because it was made by someone else. I know anyone that cooks or bakes knows what I'm talking about. So, while I am sad that I cannot personally visit this charming bakery, the bright side is anyone that lives in the Chicago area can! So you must go!
So I did the only thing I could. I reached out to the owner, Candice, and we chatted about her shop, baking with organic ingredients and found that we actually have a lot more in common besides our love for Kombucha. Just like me, she credits a lot of her delicious desserts to the quality of the ingredients she uses. We're both Greek (although she actually looks Greek unlike me, but I am proud of my 25%). We both don't like to eat raw cookie dough or anything with caramel. And her favorite dessert is a cookie. I feel like I've met my soul sister. She also agreed to share one of her recipes with us - her Pear Galette (which I'm making with apples because it's apple season here). This was one of the first desserts Candice started making and it is perfect for fall.
Mimi: How long has Cacao Sweets & Treats been in business?
Candice: Eight crazy years this July!
M: How many employees do you have?
C: Currently 5, hoping for 8 soon! It's growing time!
M: What’s a typical day like for you?
C: The kitchen is a part of my daily routine. The challenge with running a small business is that you are often an employee first and then all of the nitty gritty comes in. But that keeps you creative! My day starts in the kitchen with my bakers, stocking our case and coming up with our daily specials. From there it's a quick check of emails so I don't get too lost or miss anything urgent. Once the counter girls start rolling in, I fill everyone in on their "extra" tasks (the behind the scenes stuff). A few chats with customers, paperwork, cake decorating, deliveries - all of that stuff fills up the rest of the day in no particular order. And then back to the kitchen to make my hungry husband dinner. :)
M: I see you bake breads as well as desserts, is that difficult juggling two totally different baked items? Do you have a favorite, do you like desserts or bread more?
C: Desserts are definitely what we are most sought after for. We have been making bread from the beginning and we often talk about how we can grow that part of the business. To be honest, it's been a struggle. It's a major labor of love and time to create artisan bread, but I feel it's such an important part of who we are. We are a small neighborhood bakery. We love to see our customer's faces and get to know them, so having that necessity, like bread, makes us a potential daily stop. I feel it makes Cacao so well rounded as a truly from scratch bakery. We are pretty proud of our bread!
M: What is your favorite dessert to make? What is your favorite dessert to eat?
C: Oh my gosh, every baker's hardest questions! To make and eat... Chocolate Chip Cookies. Did you see how I capitalized it? It's that important. The simple classics done right are the true test of every bakery. I edited my recipe 36 times before I landed on what I truly have never had a better version of. Big talk, but soo true!
M: Why did you choose to be organic when you opened your business?
C: Is there another option? It's my lifestyle, not to mention food should be food. Outside of the obvious quality reasons, it simply tastes better. You are getting cleaner ingredients, which means cleaner/better flavor. Nothing upsets me more than when I go to a small cafe/shop or restaurant that is opening bags of pre-made and/or artificial anything. I can't help but question why they even got into the food business. If you are going to do it, do it all the way or don't at all.
M: Side note, I couldn't agree with you more!!!
M: What is your biggest struggle with being an organic bakery?
C: Not a whole lot. Well, food cost. We are in the suburbs, the land of big box, so I think it's hard for some to justify the cost of our quality items. Granted, we honestly don't charge quite as much as we should, but I think it's important to be an attainable option for our community.
M: What are you “known for” at Cacao Sweets & Treats?
C: Probably our crazy tall cakes - some are a foot tall! We had that tall cake game long before the trend started. I actually had a customer complain about a slice from the case "I don't understand why your cakes are so tall, I don't want to eat that much cake, I can't eat it all." To which my cheeky reply was "don't eat it all in one sitting, share with a friend!" But truly, food is meant to be shared and who doesn't want MORE cake versus less cake?! It's just fun!
M: What is an item on your menu that may not be that popular with the masses, but if you could tell everyone that they’re missing out and to get on board, you would? I like to call this the hidden gem, we have a couple of these at Mimi’s Cookie Bar where it's literally SO GOOD but no one ever orders it but I leave it on the menu just waiting for it to gain popularity... for my customers reading this, I'm talking about the Chocolate Zucchini Cake! Order it next time you need a cake, I promise you it will be one of the best chocolate cakes you've ever had, just forget it has zucchinis in it! Okay, sorry had to throw that in there, back to you Candice...
C: Oh my gosh, I love that you asked this!!! Every business has these items that frustrate the heck out of us! I have an Espresso Almond Oat Cookie that is truly once of my best recipes ever. I have given it so many lives - a standard cookie, a bar, a sandwich cookie, tossed on a cake, giving it different names - and it just won't take. This cookie is seriously amazing. I had a dream about it and immediately got into the kitchen the next morning to make it happen. I'm honestly not sure why it doesn't sell. We take it away for a bit and then sprinkle it back in hoping it will intrigue. We can't take it personal, but don't you wish everyone could see what you see?! Do you think it's like thinking your child is cuter than your friends? Haha!
M: What’s your background, did you go to culinary school? What did you do before you were a bakery owner, and what led you to where you are now?
C: I did not go to school, I just always loved to bake. I was in restaurant start-up and management. I did everything from overseeing blueprints to operations. I LOVED it. Fast paced, always something new or challenging to diffuse. I always found time to bake for my co-workers as my decompress time. They were so amazing and always encouraging that baking is what I was meant to do. But I didn't want to ruin the passion by making it my job (so far so good!). Three months before our wedding, my husband and I lost our jobs in the same week. Great start, right? We had enough money to make it through our honeymoon in Greece (thanks, Mom!) but being the Type A, project oriented psycho that I am, my husband, Adam, gently said, "you need to do something because your projects are becoming my projects". He encouraged baking, I declined. And then came the electric bill we couldn't pay. So in two days, I set up shop at a 4th of July craft fair and here we are. Crazy how things happen for a reason!
M: What kinds of hobbies do you have outside of baking? If you have any, haha I know being a business owner is hard.
C: Hobbies... hilarious! My first hobby is talking about my business. The second is obsessing about my business. Isn't that how it goes? My third hobby is currently finding ways of being okay with stepping back a bit. I am so much better at what I do when I get a fresh insight and a change of scenery. It's just hard to justify when you know how long your list is. It's always good to feel refreshed and break your routine. Road trips with Adam and our pup, Cash, are pretty great too!
So great getting to know Candice. Now here's the recipe for her famous Galette. I have converted her recipe into grams, because you all know that's how I bake. It was literally a challange for me to use measuring cups to bake this galette, but I did it! And you can find Candice's recipe on her site here.
I also always use salted butter, so I adjusted the salt in her recipe as well, which is what you'll find here. And I couldn't find ripe pears because living in a tiny mountain town sometimes finding fresh fruit can be a challenge. But, we got a huge bag of apples from Jackie's Mother in Law's tree - so I have substituted the pears for apples in her recipe and it is delicious! You can use either pears or apples, or even a mix of both! And I snapped a few photos of my own below. Enjoy making this perfect fall Apple Galette! Oh and if you want to take this thing to the next level, scoop a big fat scoop of Straus Organic Creamery's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream on top.
1 1/2 sticks (170 grams) organic salted butter, cold chopped in cubes
255 grams (2 cups) organic all purpose flour
50 grams (3 tablespoons) organic cane sugar
1/4 cup ice cold water
1 organic egg
4 to 5 organic apples, if they are really small from a tree like mine, you can use about 8
113 grams (1/2 cup) organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon organic cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon organic nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon organic cardamom
1 teaspoon all natural almond flavor (like Frontier Co-Op)
zest of 1 organic lemon
21 grams (3 tablespoons) organic all purpose flour
Method First, get the filling ready.
Chop apples into thin slices (I leave the peels on).
In a medium mixing bowl, add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and flour and whisk together.
Add the apples and fold together with your hands to coat completely.
Then add the almond flavor and lemon zest and fold again to combine completely. Set aside.
Have the cold water ready.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add flour, sugar and butter cubes. Turn the mixer on low and slowly turn it up to medium. Let it mix until the mixture looks like wet sand, and there's no large chunks of butter.
Add the cold water as soon as the mixture looks like wet sand and mix just until the dough comes together.
If you want to mix by hand you can add all ingredients into a bowl and just smoosh together until you have a dough, either way works.
On a floured surface roll out the dough so it's 1/4 inch thick, it does not have to be a perfect circle.
Place the dough on a cookie sheet with parchment paper and then add the filling to the middle of the dough and make sure it's evenly distributed so it bakes evenly.
Fold the sides in all around in a circle, again this doesn't have to be perfect and it should look a little rustic and uneven.
Place the cookie sheet with galette on it in the fridge for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a small bowl beat the egg and set aside.
Remove the galette from the fridge and using a pastry brush, brush the egg all over the dough.
Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.
High Altitude - Bake at 375°F for 45 to 55 minutes or until golden brown.