What's In A Name?

When you think of baking, it's likely you think of measuring cups and flour. Of dough and heavy cream and the smell of something delicious in the air. But do you know what no one ever thinks of? A name. 

Not just a name, but THE name. The name that will encompass all of the work and joy and frustration. A name that will convey the balance of savory and sweet and still be witty, but also make someone feel safe enough to choose it out of the multitudes of options. This should be the easy part! So why is it always the hardest? Perhaps we put too much emphasis on names. Take, for example, my most recent creation. 

This thing uses our secret cookie recipe as the base with some delightful Oreos as its crunchy filling. And then, as if Wilfred Bremely himself inspired this madness, I topped it with ooey gooey brownies. The trick is to stop the brownies from continuing to bake once you pull them from the oven. You may have heard of this particular concoction before. It has a, shall we say, non PG name. If you know, you know. And if you know, you know that I wanted to still honor that name while putting our own spin on it. After all, this isn’t your basic everyday brownie and it also includes a few tweaks only a baker with a taste for adventure (and a knack for trying that tweak 426 times before she decides it is *chef’s kiss* perfect) would know. 

So how do you name it? Well first, you taste it. And taste it again. What comes to mind? How does it make you feel? And then you take it to your people. In my case, my people are my coworkers. Experiment days are their very favorite days. We’ve reached a compromise of sorts. I feed them something new, they get to enjoy it, and then I get to interrogate them for the next 5 minutes like the baked good committed a terrible crime I’m trying to solve. “Yes, it tastes good. I know that part! But when you taste it, what do you see? How is the texture? Does it remind you of anything?” They enjoy the rapid fire questions a little less, but it’s all part of the process.

See baking? It’s 95% chemistry. It’s knowing how this ingredient will react when put with that ingredient. It’s knowing that if you accidently put this ingredient and that ingredient together, you gotta add this thing over here to fix it. There are flavors that fit together that everyone knows. But there’s this 5% that can’t be taught. And that 5% is what makes all the difference. It’s passion, love and adventure. It’s experimentation and pushing boundaries and an innate understanding that these random ingredients you’re shoving together are going to develop a personality. And it is your job, as its creator, to show that personality to the world. So you taste and you taste again. You ask your people to give their input and quiz them relentlessly. You collect all the data and think some more. And finally, you close your eyes and let this thing you’ve created speak to you. 

What’s in a name? Everything.

And that’s how, on a random Thursday in July, Back Alley Brownies were born. Why back alley brownies? Because you can’t just get them anywhere. Because they are secretive and completely indulgent. And my coworkers reacted like they were so ridiculously good that they should not be available to the general public. You might even say…

“Back Alley Brownies: So good they should be illegal.”

Amanda Gesler


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