Fort Wayne – As customers come through the door of Jeremiah’s Brewed Awakenings coffee shop in Auburn, owner Jeremiah Otis greets each one by their first name. As they approach the counter, he asks, What sounds good today?
If I don’t know a person’s name, I’ll ask them, Otis says. I like to greet people by their name.
Owning and running a business where he would be around people is something Otis, 36, says he dreamed about as a young boy.
I love people. If you talk to people, you’ll learn something about yourself or them. When I was a little kid, I had this vision in my head that I would be behind a counter and talking to people. The elements are all here – the warm environment, the sofa and the people talking. That’s the driving force, he says.
The walls of the coffee shop, at the corner of Sixth and Main streets, are decorated with artwork depicting bicycles and cycling, which hint at another hobby Otis enjoys.
Bicycling and talking to people. That’s it, Otis says of his hobbies.
Continuing, he notes, I may watch TV, but halfway through I’ll say, I need to find someone to talk to.’
Otis doesn’t see coffee as just something to get one going in the morning.
Coffee is not for waking up. It’s for connecting with people. It’s how we communicate. For me, coffee is a symbol and connection of how we relate to people, he says.
Otis offers his customers more than just coffee. Currently, cookies and muffins are available.
There’s a variety of coffee drinks, teas, smoothies. Blended creams have milk, flavoring and a thickened texture. Pretzels and bagels are coming back soon. And we want to expand the baked goods, he says.
Q. Do you remember how old you were when you began to bake?
A. I grew up in the kitchen. I grew up helping my mom (Tammy Otis). I wasn’t very old, but I remember the first batch of cookies I made. I got the sugar and salt mixed up. I had a teaspoon of sugar and 2 cups of salt! I think I was in junior high. When I first offered chocolate chip cookies (at the coffee shop), my mom asked what she could do and I pointed at her and said, Don’t overcream the butter. She pointed back and said in that mother’s tone, Who taught you to bake?
Q. Who’s your cooking idol?
A. I appreciate Alton Brown’s approach. He looks at the science behind the food. And I resonate with his sense of humor. I would say my cooking heroes are my parents. My dad (Jim Otis) can make eggs and yeast bread. Breakfast is his thing. My mom is a recipe follower, but she’s not afraid to modify stuff. She does it all.
Q. What advice would you give beginner cooks?
A. Taste everything. When you go to a restaurant, taste something you’ve never had. Find out what flavors are like, then you’ll know what you can put together.
Q. What’s something people would not find in your refrigerator?
A. Beer. I do not like beer. You can use it to bake bread. Oysters – you wouldn’t find those. While tasting, I discovered I don’t like those.
Q. If you were stuck on an island, what’s one food you would have to have?
A. Frisco bacon melt – specifically the one at Mad Anthony Brewing Co.
Q. What one word describes your cooking style?
A. Inventive, because I tend to make thing up as I go.
Biscuit-style Cinnamon Rolls
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the oven rack in the upper third of the oven. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cream and stir with a wooden spoon until a rough dough forms. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds or until smooth. If the dough seems dry, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time. Roll the dough into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the surface of the dough. Starting at one of the long sides, roll the dough into a cylinder. Cut the cylinder into eight equal pieces. Press down on one side of each piece to flatten slightly, then transfer to a pie plate. Repeat with all the pieces. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk and drizzle the icing over the biscuits. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 8 rolls.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups salted peanuts
1 1/2 cups dulce de leche
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.
To make the crust: Put flour, granulated sugar, confectioner’s sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds. Stop before the dough comes together in a ball. Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.
To make filling: Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon. Put the granulated sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Add the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring to coat the peanuts with the sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white; keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet, using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature. When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in large pieces for the filling and finely chop the other half for the topping. Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base, leaving a 1/2 -inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the whole candied peanuts over the dulce de leche.
To make the topping: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in a microwave using a low power setting. Remove the chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter until it is fully blended into the chocolate. Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, and sprinkle the finely chopped candied peanuts on top. Place the pan in the refrigerator to set the topping, about 20 minutes. If you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting. Cut into 16 bars. Store covered for 2 days at room temperature or refrigerate for 5 days. Makes 16 bars.