Posts Tagged ‘bakery’

Photo: Dex Ezekiel/ Unsplash.
A physician in Japan realized that artificial intelligence [A.I.] that could differentiate pastries might also be helpful in medicine.

I love accidental discoveries. In today’s story, a Japanese doctor was amazed at how precisely artificial intelligence could distinguish one pastry from another — and he had a lightbulb moment.

James Somers reports at the New Yorker, “A.I. researchers used to think that, without some kind of model of how the world worked and all that was in it, a computer might never be able to distinguish the parts of complex scenes. The field of ‘computer vision’ was a zoo of algorithms that made do in the meantime. The prospect of seeing like a human was a distant dream.

“All this changed in 2012, when Alex Krizhevsky, a graduate student in computer science, released AlexNet, a program that approached image recognition using a technique called deep learning. AlexNet was a neural network, ‘deep’ because its simulated neurons were arranged in many layers. As the network was shown new images, it guessed what was in them; inevitably, it was wrong, but after each guess it was made to adjust the connections between its layers of neurons, until it learned to output a label matching the one that researchers provided.”

Somers recounts that on a visit to Japan, he saw a bakery scanner identify a pastry with extraordinary precision and wanted to learn more. His curiosity took him to Hisashi Kambe, who once “developed SUPER TEX-SIM, a program that allowed textile manufacturers to simulate the design process, with interactive yarn and color editors. … A series of breaks led to a distribution deal with Mitsubishi’s fabric division, [and in 1985] Kambe formally incorporated as BRAIN Co., Ltd.

“For twenty years, BRAIN took on projects that revolved, in various ways, around seeing. … Then, in 2007, BRAIN was approached by a restaurant chain that had decided to spin off a line of bakeries. …

“The checkout process was difficult and error-prone—the cashier would fumble at the register, handling each item individually—and also unsanitary and slow. Lines in pastry shops grew longer and longer. The restaurant chain turned to BRAIN for help. Could they automate the checkout process? …

“By 2013, they had built a device that could take a picture of pastries sitting on a backlight, analyze their visual features, and distinguish a ham corn from a carbonara sandwich. …

“In early 2017, a doctor at the Louis Pasteur Center for Medical Research, in Kyoto, saw a television segment about the BakeryScan. He realized that cancer cells, under a microscope, looked kind of like bread. He contacted BRAIN, and the company agreed to begin developing a version of BakeryScan for pathologists. …

BRAIN began adapting BakeryScan to other domains and calling the core technology AI-Scan. AI-Scan algorithms have since been used to distinguish pills in hospitals, to count the number of people in an eighteenth-century ukiyo-e woodblock print, and to label the charms and amulets for sale in shrines. One company has used it to automatically detect incorrectly wired bolts in jet-engine parts.”

More in the long article at the New Yorker, here.

Read Full Post »


920x920Photo: Bill Hanisch
A Johnson & Wales alumnus and his bakery lift spirits during the pandemic.

An upbeat kind of story comes from Red Wing today, a small Minnesota town I visited when we were living in Minneapolis in the ’90s.

Cathy Free reports at the Washington Post, “When bakery owner Bill Hanisch heard traditional high school graduation ceremonies would be canceled this year, he figured he could help sweeten the day for the disappointed teens. He made a free personalized cake for each of the 220 graduating senior at his alma mater, Red Wing High School. …

“As soon as the owner of Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop posted his intentions on Facebook, he was surprised at the response. Business owners, school administrators and parents in surrounding towns like Cannon Falls, Minn., and Plum City, Wis., reached out asking if they could send him donations to make cakes for graduating seniors at their schools.

Now, he has 800 orders to fill — one cake for every senior graduating in a dozen small towns along the upper Mississippi River in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“ ‘It’s a crazy idea, but it’s really taken off and we’re all loving it,’ said Hanisch, 40, who is using the donations he has received, a total of about $10,000, for labor and ingredients only.

“The ovens at his downtown bakery are going full-time, and his ex-wife, Robin Hanisch, an ace cake decorator who works at the shop, has helped to answer the call to complete 800 graduation cakes by June 4. …

“Hanisch has already delivered about 400 cakes to six high schools. Students pick out their choice of flavors in advance (vanilla, chocolate or a mixture of both), then the cakes are decorated in their school’s colors and inscribed with their names, a mini diploma and ‘Congrats.’

“With local farmers and businesses hurting, ‘there are people who might not be able to afford a graduation cake right now,’ Hanisch said.

“Principals and teachers arrange for seniors to pick up their cakes with the caps and gowns they ordered months ago but now have to be worn at home during virtual ceremonies.

“Hanisch arrives at his shop — the only bakery in Red Wing — each morning by 2 a.m. to coordinate the day’s baking of dozens of two-layer, 7-inch cakes. Each cake costs him about $28 to make.

“ ‘It’s not a huge cake — but it’s something simple and sweet that they can have all to themselves, or they can have dinner with their family and they can all enjoy a nice slice of cake afterwards,’ he said.

” ‘These cakes are a way to let the kids know that we’re proud they made it through 12 years of school,’ he added. ‘Even though they can’t all graduate together, they deserve to be recognized. High school graduation is a big deal.’

“Hanisch, who mopped floors and rang up sales as a teenager in the bakery (then named Braschler’s), has fond memories of the cake his co-workers made for him when he graduated from Red Wing High School in 1998.

” ‘They gave me a sponge cake, and I do mean that literally,’ he said. ‘They found a giant sponge and decorated it with characters from the South Park cartoon because I lived on South Park Street and loved that show.’

“After he discovered he’d been pranked, his friends brought out an authentic graduation cake with his name on it, decorated in Red Wing’s purple and white school colors.

Hanisch enjoyed his first bakery job so much that he went on to earn a degree in baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., in 2000, before returning to Red Wing. …

“He bought the bakery from the previous owners, Bob and Nancy Braschler, in 2007 and now has more than 30 employees, including Robin and their two sons, ages 12 and 15. Thanks to all the graduation cake orders, he’s been able to keep 21 full-time employees on the payroll, he said, and the bakery has sold takeout orders as an essential business in the community since the start of the pandemic. …

“Hanisch’s efforts have led others in Red Wing to chip in for the 2020 graduates, said Tracy Hardyman, 50, whose son, Jacob, received a cake from Hanisch. As a volunteer with Red Wing’s nonprofit Downtown Main Street group, Hardyman said she knew that closing small businesses in the town, even temporarily, would be devastating.

“ ‘But then the “bunman” [Hanisch] stepped up and became our community bright spot with his free decorated cakes,’ she said. …

“Many of this year’s graduates started coming to his bakery for treats in grade school, said Hanisch, and more than a few have worked a mop or ran the cash register like he used to. …

“Among those who are graduating this year is Mya Benway, 17, who worked at the bakery for a year while attending Red Wing High School. …

“ ‘It’s just such a super nice thing for him to bake so many cakes for us.’

“Hanisch said the spring of 2020 will forever be etched in his memory not only as the time of the pandemic, but also as the time of 800 gift cakes with mini diplomas.”

More at the Washington Post, here.

I think if I were graduating in this time of turmoil, I’d be very grateful for a cake with my favorite flavors and my name on top, baked by a kind stranger.

Photo: CNN
Bill Hanisch, right, with a customer of the the Red Wing, Minnesota, bakery.


Read Full Post »

In the last year or so, the Boston Globe has been featuring occasional reviews of restaurants in other countries. Knowing I have a few readers in Sweden, I thought I would mention this week’s review, about a restaurant in Stockholm. (If you go, let me know how you like it.)

Luke Pyenson writes, “Occasionally you see a plate of food so beautiful, it’s almost difficult to take the first bite. Imagine 20 such plates on the same table. This is what you’re up against at Rosendals Tradgard, an expansive and unique bakery-cafe-and-garden here. As you approach it, the aromas hit you, then once inside, on an impossibly long table, you see morning buns, pastries, savories, sandwiches, cakes, tarts, and everything in between. As gorgeous as this veritable smorgasbord is, the sheer attractiveness of it all — like Scandinavia itself — is a bit intimidating.

“Located on Djurgarden, one of the 14 islands that make up Sweden’s pristine and enchanting capital city, Rosendals Tradgard is a place with history. First sold to soon-to-be crowned King Karl XIV Johan in 1817, the land around the restaurant was developed by the Swedish Horticultural Society for gardening and horticultural education in the early 1860s. Today, the vast complex comprises sprawling gardens (including a rose garden and apple orchard) where fruits and vegetables are cultivated, plus a cafe, bakery, plant shop, and food shop located in greenhouses. In keeping with the spirit of the Swedish Horticultural Society, there are courses, lectures, and a variety of other cultural activities around biodynamic gardening.” Click for more about the food.

And if you are in the Greater Boston area and hungry for Swedish Cardamom Rolls (kardemummabullar), check out the 43rd annual Scandinavian Fair tomorrow, Saturday, at the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School, 500 Walden St., Concord, MA, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Or you could try a recipe from Epicurious, here. It’s a bit of work. Suzanne once made the rolls for Erik, but not since having a two-year-old who likes to take charge in the kitchen.

Photo: Luke Pyenson for the Boston Globe
A plate of fresh-baked kardemummabullar at Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm.

Read Full Post »

I haven’t previously cited a story from the NY Times feature “Deal Book” (a business column about mergers and acquisitions), but then they haven’t previously written about Twinkies.

Yesterday’s history of the ups and downs of the Twinkie by Steven M. Davidoff, an Ohio State University professor, drew me in.

“It was created in 1930 by an executive working at Continental Baking who was looking for a product to sell after strawberry season ended, when the factory line for cream-filled strawberry shortcake sat empty. The yellowish, cream-filled Twinkie was a hit and the company quickly expanded.”

Mind you, I am not one of the heart-broken fans who expected Twinkie extinction after Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy last year. Even back in elementary school days, my parents regarded some things as junk food, Twinkies among them. I myself craved classmates’ pink snowball cupcakes with the frosting that could stand on its own (literally). Snowballs also were off limits.

Prof. Davidoff tells how the Twinkie and its sister products was passed from acquirer to acquirer more often than an ugly sweater in your company’s Yankee Swap.

In the end, liquidation of Hostess Brands and the outcry from Twinkie fans led to a new sense of its worth. Two private equity firms have agreed to buy it.


Photograph: Politico.com

Read Full Post »

Panera Bread has set up a foundation to fund Panera Cares, a pay-what-you-can opportunity for buying baked goods, sandwiches, and meals.

“The concept was born during the tough days of the recession. [Panera co-chief executive Ron] Shaich saw a television story about a cafe in Colorado that fed everyone at whatever price they could afford, which he said inspired him to find ways for Panera to address ‘food insecurity.’ …

“By May 2010, the first Panera Cares had opened in Clayton, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. For the first one and others since then in Dearborn, Mich., Portland, Ore., and Chicago, Panera Cares sought locations that are easily accessible by public transportation and that attract economically diverse customers. …

“Panera’s vendors contributed to the [Boston] effort, giving about $80,000 worth of free furniture and lighting, along with cameras and and coffee. The rest of the money needed to open the store, an estimated $1 million, is being absorbed by Panera Bread’s corporate operations.

“ ‘It is a community cafe of shared responsibility,’ [Kate Antonacci, project manager of Panera Cares] said. ‘One of the goals of this charitable program is to help ensure that everyone who needs a meal gets one and to raise the level of awareness about food insecurity in the country.”

The Boston Globe’s Jenn Abelson has more here, with a follow-up on the successful first week in Boston, here. See the Christian Science Monitor‘s take, here.

Will you go? Will you pay full price or a bit more for others?

Photograph: John Tlumacki / Globe Staff
The Panera Cares Community Cafe opened in Center Plaza on January 24 with a pay-as-you-can approach.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: