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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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