Friday, May 11, 2012

Rebranding: Why we are buying old products at new prices

There is nothing better than a makeover. An old used product given a new look, because we all know image is everything in this world.

I was actually inspired to write this post when I saw a "foodie" refer to strained yogurt as "Greek Yogurt". Yoghurt was invented in Turkey and "yoghurt" is a Turkish word,yoghurt  has also been around for centuries, so why is it called Greek in the US? This is not a Greece vs. Turkey question. It is a yoghurt question.

Well it seems like the first people to market strained/filtered yogurt in the US were Greek. This naming oddity results in the fact that the owner, Hamdi Ulukaya, of the third largest Yogurt maker in the US, Chobani, is Turkish, but of course he simply makes "Greek" yogurt the traditional Turkish way[1]. Confused?

In the US, naming products is many times a matter of what society we admire. In Belgium, some  chocolates are described as coming from the finest West African (Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana) cocoa. In the US, this is non-existent, chocolate is referred to as Belgian, German, Italian, French, etc. Do we have rules on how deeply we seek the origin of products? Why are wine and coffee, unlike chocolate, labeled by the region of the grapes and beans used to make them?

It is well known labeling carries value as with "Made in Germany", but does that value mask the origin of products? Does it bias our perception of quality.

Just take a look at the recent emergence of dark chocolate, spawned by Craig Sams of Green and Black. Prior to Green and Black's launch of Central American dark chocolate, dark chocolate was seen as a "Mexican thing" with exposure in only Mexico and Spain. When Green and Black launched dark chocolate in the 1970's as an alternative snack for the sugar-conscious healthy consumer, dark chocolate surged in popularity. Swiss Chocolate Maker Lindt, who had originally ignored Sams' request to expand distribution beyond Spain, jumped on board. The chocolate industry provided millions of dollars in research for the University of California, Davis and San Francisco to appeal to the college-educated consumers' "informed" decision making[2]. Did I mention, these companies were simply selling the same chocolate that has been produced south of the border for centuries. In essence, they took a valueless product in the US and created a highly priced commodity through an appeal makeover. Now the Mexican origins are forgotten.

Ghana chocolate bar made in Japan

It's quite funny, it is actually a case of national sponsorship as opposed to personal sponsorship. Just like most sponsored products, you don't really know where they came from, only who markets them, e.g. the George Foreman Grill.

As Mr. Ulukaya says, he really doesn't mind what yogurt is called, he says he focuses on the actual product. Most importantly, he emphasizes that he anticipates what the consumer wants.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rustic Strawberry, Wild Blackberry with Almond Crust

I decided to see if mixing recipes from the Recipe Generator would work. I used a crust recipe, and two streusel recipes for a Louisiana strawberry and wild Louisiana blackberry filling. Yeah, this pie is very seasonal and regional.

You will notice from the picture above that you do not see the normal pinching of the dough. This is because the almond pie dough is too delicate to be pinched since it lacks the gluten of a 100% all-purpose pie dough. The pie still came out flaky though.

I also liked the streusel nuggets.

Pie Dough

All Purpose Flour:1 Cups + 1 Tbsp156.19 g
Ground Almonds:3/4 Cups + 2 Tbsp 105.00 g
Butter10 Tbsp 140.00 g
Water:3 Tbsp 44.36 g
White Sugar:3 Tbsp 37.50 g
Salt:1/2 tsp 2.37 g

Sweet, Rich,

Pie Crust
Baking Instructions:7 minutes prior to baking, Preheat oven to

- With a pastry cutter or your fingers, incorporate the cold Butter with the dry ingredients (All-Purpose Flour, Ground Almonds ) and salt
- Do not break the butter down too much, the butter should appear like flakes (think cornflakes)
- Incorporate super cold water into dry ingredients in two parts
- Gather the dough in a ball
- Wrap the dough in plastic and freeze for 5 minutes or refrigerate for 30-45 minutes
- Take dough out of refrigerator/freezer
- With a rolling pin and floured surface, roll the dough flat into a 10-inch disc

You can see there aren't that many berries in this pie because I didn't want to walk to far into the bayou to pick blackberries. Blackberries love water, unfortunately so do these serpents called Water Mocassins - water is the source of life right? So it's a calculated risk picking blackberries from their torny bushes, but the reward is tempting.

Streusel #1- Base Streusel

IngredientsRecipeRecipe (grams)
All Purpose Flour:1/2 Cups + 1 Tbsp82.69 g
Old Fashion Rolled Oats:1/2 Cups43.00 g
Butter6 Tbsp 84.00 g
Light Brown Sugar,Packed:1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp 137.50 g
Salt:1/8 tsp 0.98 g

Sweet, Rich, Streusel
7 minutes prior to baking, Preheat oven to

- With a pastry cutter or your fingers, incorporate the cold Butter with the dry ingredients (All-Purpose Flour, Old Fashion Rolled Oats, ), sugars (brown sugar) and salt

Streusel #2 - Streusel Nuggets

IngredientsRecipeRecipe (grams)
All Purpose Flour:1/3 Cups48.97 g
Butter2 Tbsp 28.00 g
Light Brown Sugar,Packed:1/3 Cups 73.33 g
Salt:1/8 tsp 0.40 g
Cinnamon:1/4 tsp0.58 g

Sweet, Light, Streusel
7 minutes prior to baking, Preheat oven to

- Stir together the dry ingredients (All-Purpose Flour), sugars (brown sugar), and salt
- Melt the butter and add to the dry ingredients mixture
- Stir until the mixture forms clumps/nuggets

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls (Rich, Mildly Sweet)

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

For this site's inaugural recipe, I decided to try something conservative but a little different. A welcome departure for those of you who are not sugardrones. I ran the Baking Recipe Generator at and received a recipe for a Rich, Mildly Sweet Whole Wheat Cinnamon Roll - this also happens to be my preference for pastries in general.
To hone the Recipe Generator I tried very hard to misinterpret the directions to see if anything would go awry. Two odd things did happen. First I forgot the amount of flour I added for a minute. The second thing is that the last cinnamon roll was too small.  To make sure the directions were foolproof, I fixed the directions to prevent any misinterpretation and ousted the jingo, lingo, and wingo.

Now we are sitting on perfection and I present an original recipe - as always - for Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

Here is the recipe for the dough:

IngredientRecipeRecipe (in grams)
All Purpose Flour:4 Cups + 1 Tbsp597.19 g
Whole Wheat Flour:1 Cups + 3 Tbsp 154.38 g
Butter9 Tbsp 126.00 g
Water:1/2 Cups + 1 Tbsp 133.09 g
Milk:3/4 Cups + 1 Tbsp 199.06 g
Large Egg:99.58 g
Large Egg Yolk:18.90 g
White Sugar:1/4 Cups + 1 Tbsp 62.50 g
Salt:1 1/2 tsp 9.23 g
Butter:2 Tbsp28.00 g
Pecans (chopped):3/4 Cups81.75 g
Brown Sugar (packed):1 C220.00 g
Active Yeast:2 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp8.55 g

Bird's eye view of the Cinnamon Rolls showing brown sugar and nuts
The instructions are standard.

Sweet, Light, Cinnamon Roll
Baking Instructions:7 minutes prior to baking, Preheat oven to 375F/190C

Collect all ingredients, Measure and separate each ingredient into different containers

Prepare Yeast 
- Dissolve 1 Tbsp of sugar in 110F/45C degree water (a hot tub is 104F, i.e. dont boil the water)
- Pour yeast into water/sugar solution
- Let the solution stand in a cup for 10 minutes or until foamy
Form the Dough 
- Whisk/Stir together the dry ingredients (All-Purpose Flour, Whole Wheat Flour, Active Yeast, White Sugar, and salt), set aside
- Add the eggs to the dry mixture
- Add 9 Tbsp melted Butter to the egg mixture
- Add the Water, Milk, to the dry ingredient mixture
- Incorporate ingredients into a cohesive mass
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes
Knead the dough (Surface should be floured from now on) 
- Knead dough for about 6-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and silky without lumps
First Rise (1 hour and 30 minutes), 75F/24C
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic film, let rise
Add Filling 
- Roll dough on a floured surface into two 10 inch x 15 inch rectangles (4 fingers equals 3 inches)
- Whisk together all other dry ingredients (Pecans (chopped), Brown Sugar (packed)), set aside
- Leaving a 1 inch margin on the 15 inch side of the dough, brush/smear the remaining Butter(melted) on the rolled out dough
- Pour dry mixture over the dough area covered in melted butter
Form Rolls 
- Roll-up the 15 inch side of the dough and pinch the flap to the body of the dough log
- Cut off the last half-inch of each end of the dough log
- Cut the 15 inch long log into 13 equally-sized pieces
Second Rise 
- Cover the rolls and let rise for 45 minutes on a lightly greased baking sheet

Bake for 20-24 minutes @ 375F/190C

How to Name a Website

I recently started this website to showcase a random baking recipe generator hosted at SugarDrone. I am satisfied with the site but I struggled to name it. The struggle stems from the fact that a company's image is defined so much by it's perception. The logo and name are the basis of perception.

The million dollar question is how do you design a perfect logo and brand name. For a company or brand name I have noticed the following patterns:

Rule #1. Keep it easy. I like the names flickr and butterfinger. But why do we like them? They are unique and they roll off the tongue. Maybe this paradox is the missing link behind naming conventions. If you have one word it should be simple, but most simple words are too mundane and there exist some techniques to create unique but simple names:

Foreign words - altavista, haegen daz (fake foreign word)
Antiquated/Ancient words -  Nike, epicurious
Misspelled words: Compaq,
esoteric words: Google,
acronyms: UPS, IBM, PPG, GM,
compound words: FedEx, Herbalife, Microsoft, Starbucks(name), Papermate, Babelfish, Epicurious
combination words: Green&Black,Protector&Gamble, Ben&Jerry's

Musicians love:
the combination technique, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, James Gang, Radiohead, Black Flag, Underworld
the misspelled technique, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Fixx
the foreign foreign words technique, Huesker Due, Moetorhead

Easy to Say:
Some syllable clusters and letters flow easily. Take "l" to "o" as in "Brazil Open"

Rule #2. Also, as for a website, the name can't sound cheesey.
My litmus test is telling someone my website is at "". If I cringe when I say
it (e.g. "Email me at"), the domain name is no good.

"PerfectCrumbs" was my first choice for naming my website but it does not flow easily. "sugardrone" on the other hand conjures up the image of someone working incessantly in the presence of sugar, is easy to say, and is unique, perfect.

Welcome to the SugarDrone

Creating things is hard work. Creating things that actually do something original and practical is even harder. I was fortunate enough to create something that helps people have fun. It's a Baking Recipe Generator. Robust, simple, creative, and intuitive it churns out baking recipes for cookies, muffins, pie crusts, etc. in seconds. Did I mention, it is also the first baking recipe generator.

The generator is general purpose which means, you are not limited to the only all-purpose flour, milk, and white sugar recipes of your mother. No way! The generator uses of any wet or dry ingredient you can imagine. The results are recipes which are unique without being "experimental".

To show you what I have baked. I have posted some of my creations on my blog to show off the generator's accuracy. Feel free to to use SugarDrone