Archive for Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Sweet success

The Scone Lady’ delights loyal clientele

August 22, 2001

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When Karen Wagner was a young girl growing up in Leavenworth, she used to sit under a tree in her back yard and make mud pies topped with acorns.

These days she's moved on to tastier fare.

Every morning, Karen Wagner bakes fresh biscotti and scones for
four Lawrence businesses. Her husband, Orlin, started the
home-based business O&K Kitchen in the early 1990s. Karen
Wagner displays a few of her products with the assistance of her
bird, Maxi, who doesn't help with the cooking.

Every morning, Karen Wagner bakes fresh biscotti and scones for four Lawrence businesses. Her husband, Orlin, started the home-based business O&K Kitchen in the early 1990s. Karen Wagner displays a few of her products with the assistance of her bird, Maxi, who doesn't help with the cooking.

Wagner, 42, spends each morning baking fresh biscotti and scones for four Lawrence businesses, where she's built quite a following of loyal customers.

It's easy to gauge the popularity of Wagner's baked goods just watch how quickly they disappear from the places that sell them.

"People say, 'They're good, and when are you getting more?' They go fast," says Laurel Wimberg, manager of La Prima Tazza, 638 Mass.

The coffeehouse has carried Wagner's biscotti and scones for several years. Her products also are sold at Henry's, 11 E. Eighth St.; Classic Gourmet, 3300 W. 15th St.; and Z's Divine Espresso, 1800 E. 23rd St.

Wagner is gratified by the warm response to her baking, which has earned her a reputation.

"I come through the door with my (delivery) baskets and people that I don't know greet me: 'Are you the lady who bakes the scones? Are you the lady who bakes the biscotti?' They say I should become the next Mrs. Fields," Wagner says.

Thanks to these encounters, she's become widely known throughout town as "the Scone Lady."

Wagner enjoys the one-person baking business O&K; Kitchen she runs out of the state-inspected kitchen in her Lawrence home.

Karen Wagner's fresh-baked flavors include biscotti studded with
dried cranberries.

Karen Wagner's fresh-baked flavors include biscotti studded with dried cranberries.

"It's relaxing, and I'm my own boss. But the most rewarding thing is the people, the customers. When people comment about my biscotti and scones, I just get a warm, fuzzy feeling," she says. "As long as there are biscotti and scone addicts, I'll never stop baking."

It was actually Wagner's husband, Orlin Wagner the "O" in O&K; Kitchen who started the business.

While a free-lance photographer in the early 1990s, he also worked part-time baking goods for a couple Lawrence coffeehouses.

"He paid off his student loans," Karen Wagner says.

She took over the business in 1998 when her husband became a staff photographer with The Associated Press in Kansas City, Mo.

Karen Wagner still uses the basic scone recipe her husband developed, baking three dozen scones each morning.

Karen Wagner's fresh-baked flavors include blueberry-bursting
scones. Her baked goods are sold in Lawrence at La Prima Tazza,
Henry's, Classic Gourmet and Z's Divine Espresso.

Karen Wagner's fresh-baked flavors include blueberry-bursting scones. Her baked goods are sold in Lawrence at La Prima Tazza, Henry's, Classic Gourmet and Z's Divine Espresso.

Her biscotti, made from a recipe she developed herself, are baked according to demand.

She puts no preservatives in her scones and biscotti, and uses ingredients produced in Kansas whenever possible.

The secret to successful baking lies in the equipment, Karen Wagner says.

"You've got to get a good oven," she says. "I have a GE Spectra convection oven with three racks and a fan in the back that distributes the heat evenly."

That oven regularly turns out biscotti that are pleasingly crunchy, not break-your-tooth hard, and tempting scones studded with moist chunks of fruit.

Her customers can't seem to get enough of them.

"People in line (at coffeehouses) are already ordering them while they're still in my basket," she says.

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