Giving Away Your Business Recipes, FAQ

December 17th, 2014

You've worked hard to develop your recipes, taking care to get every pie crust, bread, and cake, absolutely perfect.

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You’re in business or hope to be soon. You’ve spent much time developing recipes which are unique and flawless. You have high standards and strive for baked goods that are so fabulous, customers will continually purchase your products and you’ll earn a good income.

One of the top questions I receive is the problem of people (customers, friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers) asking for recipes. This can be hard to deal with, especially if the request comes from a family member or friend.

I would never give away a recipe that is part of my business. I would be especially concerned about a current or future competitor who thinks my product is such a great seller they want to sell it, too. Giving away a recipe or special technique is like giving away the password to my bank account.

This won’t be the last time you have to deal with people asking for the secrets to your livelihood. Don’t give too many details, don’t feel like you have to explain, and don’t feel like you have to be totally honest. The simpler your response, the easier it will be. And just because you previously agreed to giving out a recipe, does not commit you now.

Come up with a statement and use it whenever the occasion arises:

“I’m glad you like _______. When I’m no longer in business I’ll make sure to give you the recipe.”

“Thank you for the compliment. My recipes are part of my business so I’m sure you understand why I can’t make them public.”

“Thanks so much for your interest! But this is how I make a living, so I can’t give away too much info.”

OR point them in the direction of a recipe site or cookbook. “Yes, these are delicious. You can find the original recipe on allrecipes.com (or someplace similar).

Some people can’t take no; there are always master manipulators. You’ll have to stay strong and remember they only care about themselves.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Never forget that you are the only one in charge of caring about you and your business.

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The (Faux) Pastry Chef Bakes Holiday Cookies

December 9th, 2014

Several years ago (a lifetime away, before Baking Fix) I’d accepted a high-status position as the Executive Pastry Chef for a national market and bakery. My new employer had enticed me with flattery about my baking skills and superb instincts for running a business. But after a short training period I realized that I’d made a mistake.

Have you ever fantasized about the wonderful life of a pastry chef? Here’s a peek into reality: from The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix page 49

Perfectly Pointless Cookies
Three weeks before Christmas the cookie recipes finally arrived. The attached note said we were to bake a few of each and mail them to [person-in-charge Corporate Pastry Chef] Susan. Most of these recipes were tedious to produce and had flavor issues in the balance of spices. I decided not to comment. At least I had already learned something: don’t give feedback, no one wanted my opinion.

I had no idea how Susan had decided on shape, flavor, or appropriateness to both the holiday and the staffing. Overtime for the hourly workers was not allowed, so I had the privilege of making these new recipes all by my lonesome. The first recipe I baked included lots of dried fruits and a store-bought breakfast cereal as main ingredients. I can’t tell you what the binder was, or I’d be giving away a trade secret, but suffice it to say that it didn’t bind all that well.

The recipe made a large amount of dough and I had to scoop miniature-sized cookies from a huge 80-quart mixer bowl. The instructions noted that they needed to be mixed carefully, so the cereal didn’t get crushed. Get crushed? The hard metal mixer paddle, along with thirty pounds of dried fruit had already smashed that delicate and crispy cereal into crumbs. By the time I put the unbaked trays into the cooler, most of these globs had already fallen apart.

Another one of these tiny cookies was a simple dough with an egg wash to hold down “perfectly sliced nuts carefully placed on the center top with the points facing outward like a little star.” Oh, please. Any novice baker knows that a twenty-five or thirty pound box of thinly sliced nuts has been jostled, stacked, and crushed before it arrives at its destination. We would never be lucky to find enough perfectly sliced pieces with their points intact. And, place them exactly in the center with the points all in the same direction? If I lasted a year, which was looking doubtful, I would voice an opinion on the realistic production of Christmas cookies. This bakery needed a dough depositor, a relatively small piece of equipment that could replace the hand-scooping of all their products.

In addition to the Perfectly Pointless Cookies and Susan’s Cereal Nightmare Cookies, there were three or four others, each with their own problems and each quite time-consuming. I mixed all the doughs and scooped thousands of these little cookie balls. I baked a few samples from each of the recipes and they all looked perfectly pathetic. I just figured it was another failure to add to my list of failures.

When [Corporate Trainer] Seranne decided to send Susan the box, she preferred to bake off some herself because mine looked terrible. But her attempt was worse than the ones I had baked. Hers were burned, deformed and very anti-Christmas. Next to her cookies, mine looked ‘perfectly’ awesome…

When Phanh started his shift, Seranne asked if he had any recipes. He had just come from his full-time job at the Marriott; in his pocket was the Marriott Christmas cookie formula, a bland sugar cookie distinguished by a sprinkling of red or green sugar. I don’t know what happened to the unbaked refrigerated trays of cookies I’d already made, but now I was told to bake this misappropriated recipe under the Planet Feasty name.

The Joy of Cooking had better recipes. I stated my disappointment that Feasty’s, with Susan’s supposedly high standards, unethically took another business’ recipe. “This is a case of ‘Do what I say, not what I do,’” I wrote in my nightly report. Not that I cared anymore, I just wanted management to know someone was watching. The next day, a week before Christmas, Seranne called her sister, whose home-sized batch of nut cookies replaced the Marriott cookies…

Too bad they hadn’t asked me, cookie baker extraordinaire and their new Corporate Pastry Chef. We could have made these easy sugar cookies. The recipe is adaptable to numerous variations. For the holidays I like to

add cranberries and pistachios

or bake small cookies and sandwich together with jam, then dip in chocolate and holiday sprinkles.

Sugar Cookies
Yield: approximately 10 dozen large or 40 dozen small
1 ½ pounds butter
1 ½ pounds shortening
6 pounds granulated sugar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup corn syrup
6 tablespoons vanilla extract
6 eggs
¼ cup baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
5 ½ pounds all-purpose flour
Optional toppings: sprinkles, colored sugar, chocolate chips, nuts, non-pareils, cinnamon sugar (Snickerdoodles), etc.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F; line cookie pans with parchment paper or silicone sheets.
2. Cream first three ingredients; make sure to scrape down the bowl and under the paddle.
3. Add the next four ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended. Scrape bowl again.
4. Add dry ingredients; blend carefully so flour doesn’t escape over the sides of the bowl. Scrape down paddle and bowl again; mix until thoroughly combined.
5. Pour topping ingredients into large, flat bowls. Using an ice cream scoop as portion control, drop cookie dough onto the topping, place dough (topping side up) on cookie sheets, at least 1” apart and flatten slightly. (Pan 48 small cookies per full sheet tray.)
6. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until edges are light golden brown.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! What are you making and selling this holiday season?

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Edible Gifts for the Holidays

December 3rd, 2014

Did you know that food gifts are the top items for holiday gifting?

Bake magazine: Baked goods among top holiday gifts for giving

New consumer research from the Specialty Food Association and Mintel shows that chocolate, cheese and baked goods top the list of food gifts this holiday season. “The great news for gift recipients is that creativity is at an all-time high within these categories, and beyond there are more treats than ever, like handcrafted charcuterie, for the food adventurer in quest of new tastes,” says Louise Kramer, public relations director for the association.

You can bake special items for the holidays, such as bundt cakes, fruitcakes, sugared nuts, gingerbread, and pfeffernuesse, etc. Or simply dress up your regular menu items.

Little bundt cakes with powdered sugar.

Simple cookie trays are made

using your basic sugar cookies

and decorated with holiday cut-outs using a shortbread recipe.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Bread, rolls, pies, tarts, cookies, cheesecake, sweetbreads, muffins, cinnamon buns, and coffeecakes. What are you making and selling this holiday season?

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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

November 26th, 2014

Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. It’s a time to be thankful for everything we have.

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Your Thanksgiving Products

November 19th, 2014

Are you ready for Thanksgiving orders? What are you offering this year? Popular items are always bread, rolls, pies, tarts, cheesecake, and sweetbreads.

If you don’t like to roll out pie crusts, there are press-in cookie crusts that work exceptionally well. Tarts are also popular. After pumpkin and apple pies, my shop’s runner-ups were a fruit tart (made with jam, no fresh fruit) and a pecan chocolate chip pie made with a cookie crust. Another option is to bake an apple cake in a pie pan, so it has the appearance of a pie.

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Customers order products for both their Thanksgiving meal and for breakfast/brunch on Thanksgiving Day, so don’t forget to offer items such as muffins, cinnamon buns, and coffeecakes.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best! By now you should be all set with your Thanksgiving offerings. But it’s never too early to start next year’s menu. Do your market research now and keep notes and photos.

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Cranberries, the Seasonal Favorite

November 12th, 2014

Fresh cranberries, harvested in September and October, are available for sale from October through December.

The tartness of fresh cranberries is perfect when combined with the tender crumb of a flavorful sweet bread.

Cranberry Orange Bread

This time of year, customers crave traditional foods on their holiday tables. In addition to cranberry jelly, this bright red berry is a must have on bakery product lists.

For this loaf, I used a plain batter, substituted orange juice for the liquid, and added chopped berries.

I have several cranberry bread recipes, but I often use whichever recipe is handy and simply add fresh chopped cranberries. If you have a favorite recipe that calls for raisins, try substituting these bright red berries.

Cranberry bread is a Thanksgiving favorite.

How to Select and Store
Choose fresh, plump cranberries, deep red in color, and quite firm to the touch. Firmness is a primary indicator of quality. Fresh ripe cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 20 days. Before storing, discard any soft, discolored, pitted or shriveled fruits. When removed from the refrigerator, cranberries may look damp, but such moistness does not indicate spoilage, unless the berries are discolored or feel sticky, leathery or tough.

During cranberry season I purchase several bags, enough to have extra for freezing. Cranberries can be kept frozen for several years. To freeze, rinse and spread on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. Once frozen, place in freezer bags and use them frozen – otherwise the berries become soft and soggy as they thaw.

For more info and to learn about healthful aspects of cranberries.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Cranberry breads and muffins are excellent sellers at the farmers’ market.

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Baking With Almond Paste, Class

November 5th, 2014

Almond paste is a firm, dense mixture of almonds and sugar. It’s used in many classic European recipes such as basic almond cakes; macaroons; Italian cookies such as rainbows (Neapolitans), crescents, Amoretti, and basic butter cookies; and is used as the filling in frangipane tarts, Danish, and Stollen. In my baking, I use it extensively in frangipane (my favorite way to bake seasonal tarts and pies), coffeecakes, biscotti, and butter cookies.

Almond paste is similar to marzipan, a candy that contains almond paste plus a sugar syrup. The paste is pricey, but it’s not difficult to make from scratch, although it’s difficult to get the consistency as smooth as the factory made variety.

Last night we had a full class and made Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies, Almond Biscotti, and Almond Drop Cookies.

Full class!

Almond chocolate chip cookies.

Above, these cookies are the most favorite of all!

Cherry Almond Biscotti

Italian Drop Cookies

Other products I often make: Frangipane Crumb Bars,

Frangipane Pear Tart,

Frangipane Plum Tarts,

Peach 'n Plum Frangipane Pies,

and Almond Pastries.

Frangipane Filling
1 cup almond paste (8 ounces)
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt

Beat together almond paste, sugar, and butter. Add eggs and extracts, beating until smooth. Mix in flour and salt. Spread thin layer over tart crust or use as filling for other products. Store in fridge.

Fresh fruit season is perfect for selling this product, especially at farmers’ markets. Make individual tarts or a large tart cut into small pieces. Optional: add a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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New Product Idea, FAQ

October 29th, 2014

I’m often asked about product line recommendations. What products are best for a home-based bakery? First, it’s important to look at your target market. Next, look at your skill level and the limitations of your kitchen.

But there’s always one product idea I recommend to everyone. For bakeries, whether retail or home-based, it’s nice to have at least one long shelf life product. Up until a few years ago I had always recommended that businesses add granola and/or biscotti to their product line. Those are easy ideas for small artisan bakeries.

But store shelves are now overstocked with these two product lines. I still think it’s worth producing them if you are selling locally and they are products that you and your family will eat, since there’s virtually no loss. If they don’t sell at the market, bring them home.

Market research can yield numerous new ideas, as with these products.

These dry cookie/cracker items can last many months.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Do your market research. Many customers enjoy a simple treat with their coffee or tea. Think about adding this type of product.

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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.

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

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.

Notes:
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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