Knishes, the Meal in a Pocket

October 22nd, 2014

Potato Knishes

Knishes are a filling wrapped up in dough. Eastern European immigrants arriving in the early 1900’s brought knishes to North America. With our current food trend, the popularity of this item has grown and expanded across the country.

Knish class! We used a classic oil-based dough and learned how to create our own savory, handheld treats. Traditional fillings are potato, meat, and sweet or savory cheese.










KNISHES yield 17 oz. dough (8 medium knish, or two logs)

1 large egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup water
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour (8.5 oz.) plus more for kneading and rolling
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Potato Filling

3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced (approx. 1 pound)
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon butter
1-2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon salt (or celery salt), black pepper, to taste

Egg wash, optional, 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

1. For dough: In a small bowl, mix together egg, oil, water, and vinegar. Add dry ingredients and stir to combine. Knead until smooth, about one minute. Wrap dough in a flat disk and chill at least 30 minutes, or up to several days.
2. For filling: Cook potatoes until tender. Drain and mash. Mix in remaining ingredients. Cool.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line large baking sheet with parchment or foil.
4. Roll dough into rectangle, as thin as possible. Form filling into log and roll up jelly roll style. Place seam side down on baking sheet. Make indentations on the log every few inches. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the knish into a squat shape.
5. Egg wash if desired, and bake 40-50 minutes, until golden brown.

1. May use leftover mashed potatoes for filling. Other fillings are meat, kasha, broccoli, spinach and cheese, and sweet cheese.
2. Other doughs that work are pie dough, rugelach dough, puff pastry, phyllo.
3. Instead of logs, form individual square, round, or rectangular pockets; may bake in muffin cups.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! There’s no standard of identity for the knish, so you have the freedom to be creative.

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If You Want a Long-Term Business

October 15th, 2014

Ask yourself why you’re interested in becoming a food entrepreneur.

Magnolia Bakery

If your first answer is that you want an income, start with a business plan. That plan will help you set a good foundation before starting your business.

Bouchon Bakery

In general, a business plan will help you to ask and answer basic, important questions. A finished plan will help you reach your customers. It will help you figure out what to sell, who to sell it to, and show the importance of product pricing.  This plan will identify your target market and your competitive advantages (what you offer over competing businesses already serving that same market), and the advertising strategy you need to reach those customers.

Martha's Country Kitchen

Writing a simple business plan is the first step in launching a successful venture. It will help you understand if your concept is feasible, and how to proceed with implementation.

Saunderskill Farm Market

Between the production side and the business side, it’s a lot of work to run a viable business. Most people who start a business because of their love for food, tend to neglect the business end and invariably go out of business. So if you answered the first question, “I have a passion for baking” or “I love food” please rethink your ideas. According to expert Stephen Hall, “It is estimated that 90% of start-up food businesses fail in the first three years.”

Farmers' Markets

Home Bakery

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Unfortunately, many folks jump in without considering the reality of basic business issues. Small business failure can often be averted by starting at the beginning with a detailed business plan.

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Easy Way to Develop New Products

October 8th, 2014

Peach Mini-Pies

In our business it’s always a plus to come up with new products. The simplest way is to take your current recipes and look at how they can be tweaked into different products. For example, I baked the above peach pies by combining two of my reliable no-fuss recipes: a sweet crust, and a spicey peach pie filling.

I rolled out circles of dough, added filling, topped the pies with another piece of dough, and crimped as usual. Using a sweet crust was the only difference between this product and my usual peach pie.



While baking, I noticed the crimped dough didn’t hold its shape, the dough began to brown after ten minutes, and appeared totally baked a few minutes later. I dropped the oven temp to avoid over-browning and baked another ten minutes to give the peaches enough time to soften.



Usually my pies just pop right out of the tins but this time I had to run a sharp knife along the edge and sides. Good thing I used pan spray.

They looked different after baking, not like any pie I ever made. The sweet crust contained sugar and eggs which gave the pies a golden color; the sides and bottom were a deep golden brown; and the crimping had a pleasing pattern.

We couldn’t wait to try these new pies. The crust edges were chewy and flavorful while the sides and bottom remained tender, and the filling exploded with fresh nutmeg and sweet peach.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Look through your recipe file and try something new!

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Are Your Product Labels Correct?

October 1st, 2014

Bakery products need accurate labels, required by law for health and safety issues. (Plus, it’s a courtesy to all your customers.)

Not having a correct label can be a serious issue for customers and have consequences for businesses. In 2010 the FDA began an investigation into a bakery that labelled its products as sugar free although the products did contain sugar. Also on the label, the declared value of fat was far in excess of the stated amount on the label. This letter was an opportunity for the bakery to make changes – either to its labels or products.

Then in May of 2011 the FDA sent a warning letter to the bakery. An investigator had determined that several products were mislabeled.


According to an ABC news story:

The Butterfly Bakery, based in Clifton, started in 1998 with a focus on producing delicious baked goods that wouldn’t ruin a diet, but an FDA investigation revealed a few of those snacks were not quite as healthy as advertised.

The investigation conducted over a number of years found that some products labeled “sugar-free” did in fact contain sugar and others contained more fat than what appeared on the label. One of the worst offenders was the company’s No Sugar Added Blueberry Muffin, which had a saturated fat content 360 percent more than what appeared on the label. Their Sugar Free Double Chocolate Chip Muffin was even worse, with 444 percent more saturated fat than what was listed on the label.

The Butterfly Bakery has entered into a consent decree with the FDA, which means the bakery has halted production and distribution in order to comply with the FDA’s regulations. An injunction was issued by federal judge Dennis Cavanaugh.

“This injunction demonstrates that the FDA will seek enforcement action against companies that mislead consumers on the products they purchase,” Melinda K.  Plaisier, the FDA’s acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a press release. “Until Butterfly Bakery meets FDA regulations, it will no longer be able to process or distribute their products.”

This business initially responded that it would take care of the issues. Their response “highlighted that only three of 45 products had been cited by the FDA for being misleading.” Whoa, that was their defense? The bakery eventually closed in March, 2013.

Another article, Nutrition Label Errors Shut Down New Jersey Bakery, was published in Food Safety News. For your reading pleasure, this website also has current listings of foodborne illness outbreaks around the US.

Also on the FDA site, read about warning letters sent each year about other investigations and compliance actions.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Don’t let this happen to you. Are your labels in compliance?

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Happy New Year Apple Cake

September 24th, 2014

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown tonight. Many celebrants will eat Jewish Apple Cake, one of the traditional holiday desserts.

Chunks of apples are mixed throughout this cake.

There’s a minor controversy about what constitutes Jewish Apple Cake. The Washington Post states, “It might be labeled Jewish because there is oil rather than butter or lard in the batter.” Wikipedia, our worldwide fortress of information, has a different view. “Jewish apple cake is a kind of dense cake made with apples and sold mostly in Pennsylvania in the United States.” Readers are then directed to Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine.

Sliced apples are pressed into the top of this cake.

Since there is no standard of identity for many products, including Jewish Apple Cake, I feel that I’m allowed to call my recipe Jewish Apple Cake because my mother was Jewish. Bless her soul.

Several years ago when I worked as a pastry chef for an upscale residence hotel chain, I used many of my own recipes:

Jewish Foods
I sometimes made my mom’s apple cake for dessert. There were many Jewish residents at the hotel, so I wanted to call it Jewish Apple Cake. Chef Nico refused to do it and looked at me with suspicion.

“There’s no such thing as Jewish Apple Cake,” he insisted. “As an executive chef I am very familiar with Jewish foods and dietary laws.”

So on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, his dinner menu posted in the lobby listed split pea and ham soup with Apple Cake for dessert. I saw the menu when I arrived at work. I could have told Chef that ham for a festive Jewish holiday meal was not the best choice, but I didn’t say anything.

When the residents saw the printed menu, they stormed the office. Chef added Carrot & Apple Tzimmes as the vegetable, saved the soup for another day, and changed the dessert name by adding “Jewish.” Chef ate three pieces of that cake even though he was on a diet.

From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix page 99

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Coffeecake Drops Out of Science Class

September 17th, 2014

There were many responses to my previous post about cookie science. Apparently I’m not the only person who finds this brand of pop science somewhat irritating. In today’s post I ran my own little “science” test.

Blueberry Crumb Coffeecake

I have several sour cream coffeecake recipes, some that are quite similar to each other. I focused on those and compared the recipes. They all have the same ingredients – butter, sugar, eggs, flour, etc. – but the amounts are different; sometimes slightly different and sometimes very different. Although the batter yields are all the same, some start with a pound of butter while some use only one-quarter pound. Leaveners are different, sugar is different, etc. The one constant is that the results are all tender with the texture I expect to find in a coffeecake. Is there anything I can learn without running a real scientific test?

Cake A (round cakes in front). Cake B (9x13 cake in back).

I started with my favorite recipe, below, and baked the recipe twice for a side by side test. Cake A was baked exactly as written. Cake B had several changes and substitutions such as part sour cream and part yogurt. While Cake A had exact flour, I was sloppy with the flour measurement for Cake B and that batter came out too thick. I then poured in amaretto without measuring. Also with Cake B, I stirred in the salt after everything was mixed. (Sorry, accidental part of the planned experiment.)

Cake A

Cake B

What can I conclude from this test? Both cakes came out great and I have written results. But I didn’t learn anything useful that I could state as a fact, since any conclusions would be based on a one-time test. Maybe if I ran it exactly the same way multiple times (using the same brand ingredients, same mix times, bake times, and process, etc.) I would have results to compare and conclusions could be reached. But without real controls it’s impossible to come up with a reliable evaluation.

Unofficial conclusions
Conclusion #1: It’s hard to screw up sour cream coffeecake.
Conclusion #2: If you are a scientist and understand how to conduct legitimate scientific experiments, great. But if you’re a foodie, enjoy your fabulous coffeecake and leave science to professionals.

Sour Cream Coffeecake
Filling, optional

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon


  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons liquor
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (18 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh chopped fruit or berries, optional

1. Heat oven to 350º F. Grease 9×13 pan, or (2) 9” pans, or any variation of smaller pans.
2. If using filling, in small bowl, mix all filling ingredients and set aside.
3. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar, then beat in eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and any liquor. Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in fruit, if using.
4. For a fruited coffeecake, spread batter in pans. If you prefer using filling, spread ⅓ of plain batter (about 2 cups) in pan; sprinkle with ⅓ of the filling. Repeat until batter is used.
6. Bake 45-60 minutes (depending upon size of pans) or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool and sprinkle cakes with confectioners’ sugar.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! This recipe works well with fresh, seasonal fruit.

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Cookie Science?

September 10th, 2014


Last year, Tessa Arias, a food blogger, began a fun series about chocolate chip cookies. She wrote The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies, followed by several more posts. Arias is a culinary grad with a personable style. I enjoyed her viewpoint but was rather surprised to read in the Ultimate Cookie Troubleshooting Guide that, “The posts illustrated the science behind cookie baking.”


I am not a food scientist. I am a former bakery owner and have baked thousands of cookies, cakes, brownies, muffins, coffeecakes, breads, rolls, etc. I learned by reading and making the same recipes over and over and over. I write about food but my results are not science.

A basic principle in science: testing must be done numerous times and results must have the ability to be independently reproduced. Where’s the science behind the cookie testing results? While Arias’ posts are fun to read, they are not scientific. Calling a fluff piece “science” is misleading. It attempts to elevate recipe development to a higher status but only succeeds in devaluing the true nature of scientific testing.

I wouldn’t have addressed this issue, but then Anne Miller wrote, The Science Behind Baking the Most Delicious Cookie Ever and referred to food blogger “…Tessa Arias, who writes about cookie science on her site, Handle the Heat.”

Christa Savery Dunn, Baking Outside the Box, an avid writer and recipe developer wrote, “I need to do this experiment myself because I have had different results than some of the ones shown here. What do you think of the science behind this? … I have had brown sugar cookies come out flat and white sugar cookies come out fluffy, so I question that. Also, beating speed and time are not mentioned in this article, and I think that is a major omission.”

Dunn made some excellent observations. And I have more concerns. Does the author use weight or volume measure? If you’ve been hanging around the food/baking world for any length of time you no doubt have heard that weight is accurate and volume is inaccurate with inconsistent results. Volume measure is fine for home bakers, but frowned upon for commercial baking and absolutely unacceptable for scientific results. This blog series gave volume measure for flour, with the caveat, “if you’re interested in the weight…”


In Miller’s piece, a couple of things are right. But there’s a lot wrong, such as “Ooey-gooey: Add 2 cups more flour.” WRONG WRONG WRONG. Adding 2 more cups would be a disaster. Is there no proofreader on duty? Churning out these types of food articles is what happens when food becomes trendy.


We are blurring the lines between science and pseudoscience. But everyone does it so that makes it okay? Unfortunately, Miller’s well written but not-so-scientific article was reposted in Time and again in NPR.

I can certainly see why a food blogger would write about baking chocolate chip cookies. But I’m disappointed with how “science” has evolved. There are similar “science” pieces out there, some good and some not.  But really, please, stop already with this pseudoscience.


Our society worships everything food and everyone wants in. Media stars, marketing personnel, lawyers, English professors, home cooks – far too many people who have no business discussing and writing about food “science” have crossed the line. The food hobby has gone crazy. Enough already.

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Strudels, Sweet or Savory

September 3rd, 2014

Seasonal Plum Strudel

Strudels! Take advantage of this time of year for using seasonal and local produce. For a boost to farmers’ market sales, purchase fresh produce from your local growers.

Strudels are similar to pies: both products are made with a dough and filling. For the crust, use any pie dough. For a sweet filling, use any fresh fruit. For a savory filling, try a mixture of seasoned, par-cooked vegetables.

Peach filling wrapped in oil-based pie dough.

For oil-based pie crust recipe or flaky pie dough recipe.

Savory fillings wrapped in dough and ready to bake or freeze.

Potato chive dinner strudel.

1. Do not use too much filling or it will leak during baking.
2. Place seam side down on parchment or foil-lined baking sheet.
3. Slit dough before baking. It allows steam to escape and makes pre-cut servings.
4. For Hors D’oeuvres, roll dough into thin logs.
5. If filling seems too wet, put strudel in a baking dish.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you’re new to strudel and nervous about how they will bake, use a disposable pan when you start making them for sale.

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Cookie Decorating and Marketing Workshop

August 27th, 2014

Last weekend, SweetAmbs and Baking Fix held a cookie decorating and marketing workshop for 12 students. The morning was spent learning flooding, wet-on-wet technique, and  brush embroidery. In the afternoon we talked about marketing our business and selling our cookies.


Amber demonstrated each new technique before students began practicing.


Finished cookies were left to dry on half sheet trays

and the trays were loaded into a cooling rack.





We took a break and ate lunch provided by SweetAmbs. In the afternoon we talked about the marketing aspect of running a cookie business. It’s important to organize your thoughts to begin a marketing plan that fits into your overall business plan. This includes developing a concept and structuring a brand, then identifying your target market while enjoying the market research.

Keep an eye on Amber’s website for more upcoming classes. Baking Fix classes are posted here.

And the latest news: Amber is working on a book! More information after the contract is signed!!

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Iggy’s Bread – Bakery Tour & Market Research

August 20th, 2014

Checking out the display cases and asking questions.

If you’re in the food business, bakery tours are a pleasant way to do market research. There’s a lot to be learned from seeing what new products are being sold, how products are displayed, and tours are a great tool for staying up with current trends.

For bakery owners, these tours are a necessity.  If you like food, it’s fun exploration and gastronomic entertainment. Visiting bakeries is one of my favorite activities.

Everywhere I go, I make a point of visiting at least one bakery. On a recent Sunday morning in Boston MA, we went to Iggy’s Bread,  a large wholesale facility with a retail area in front.

Entrance to the retail area for Iggy's Bread.

We found cookies, pastries, tarts, sandwiches, pizza, buns, and granola. So much more than bread!

Everyone gets to choose.



Iggy's sticky buns - the best breakfast pastry, ever!

We bought one each of everything that looked enticing.

Hungry now! We stopped outside to open boxes and dig in.

"Should we go back and get daddy a sticky bun, too?"

Suggestions for an easy and enjoyable bakery tour:
1. Buy one each of everything that looks interesting or different. Ask questions but be considerate of the clerk and other customers.
2. After you get home examine your purchases before digging in. (If you’re too hungry or have kids along, dig in immediately!)
3. Don’t plan on eating your regular lunch or dinner. Sometimes we must sacrifice a meal for market research.
4. You don’t have to eat an entire pastry. Just take a bite or nibble to savor the flavor and texture. Take notes.
5. If you have a lot of treats, wrap up any long shelf-life items. Eat them another day.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Save your receipts! Bakery tours are a legitimate business necessity.

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