Flea Market Sales, FAQ

April 16th, 2014

Many new food entrepreneurs plan on selling their foods at local farmers’ markets.

But they often ask about flea markets, too. “Are these venues a good place to sell food?”

Well… that depends…

Sloppy vendor selling "artisan" bread.

Would your products do well next to this vendor?

For the most part, people who go to flea markets are looking for cheap prices. Shoppers who go to farmers’ markets are looking for food. If you are interested in selling at a weekly flea market, you might draw regular customers so you can build a following. But these types of venues have a certain reputation, so it depends upon several variables such as the kind of crowd the flea market draws, the weather, and how often the flea market is open.

The photos below are from a market located in an upscale area. It’s a busy, 350 vendor flea market with indoor and outdoor booths. Sometimes it was hard to know what food product they were selling. Some food displays were an afterthought, tagged on to a table selling a variety of items. And mixing food vendors in with clothing, toys, electrical parts and all-around junk, made the food less appetizing. The one exception was the dog treat table. They seemed to do quite well. But remember, they sold dog food, not people food.

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Super messy vendor...

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I wonder how many people actually buy spices.

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Dog products seem to sell fairly well.

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Pickle sales were the busiest of all the vendors. But this niche business is on its way to saturation.

If you are contemplating flea market sales, I suggest you visit the one(s) you’re interested in. Wander around, stay for several hours, and keep an eye on the food vendor tables. Are they making sales or are people just taking samples as they pass by? Are the shoppers in your target market? Will your products fit the typical kind of crowd for this market? Are the prices fair for the vendor to make a profit or are they priced low just to make sales? If you want to give it a try, that’s fine. Just be aware of the possible outcomes.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Craft fairs, too, are not the best venue for baked goods. These kinds of fairs usually allow unlicensed hobby/businesses to sell products that are priced so low it’s impossible to compete.

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Shortcut Strudel

April 9th, 2014

Last night we had a class for making strudel.

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Fillings were either sweet or savory.

This fruit mixture contained dark raisins, golden raisins, and apricots.

This strudel had a Mexican-style savory filling with refried beans and shreddded cheese. It was fabulous!

These strudel logs were wrapped around cinnamon sugar and chopped walnuts.

During break we talked about next semester's classes.

Hot from the oven and ready to pack for home.

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Sweet Fillings
Cinnamon sugar with chopped nuts
Sweet cheese filling – 1 pound cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla
Apple filling – chopped or sliced, per apple use 1 Tbsp flour, ¼ cup sugar, lemon juice
Canned fruit pie fillings – use fruit and discard some of the thickened gel
No sugar added fruit fillings – choice of raisins, apricots, dates, etc. Soak in water and drain.
Store bought jams are not heat stable – burn easily, and leak from dough. Use sparingly.

Savory Fillings
Casserole type dishes that can be spread with a spatula
Lasagna type ricotta cheese mixture
Sliced pieces of meat and/or cheese
Ground beef fillings, chili, BBQ mixtures, etc
Mashed potatoes become Knishes
Mexican-style using refried beans, cheese

Serving Suggestions
Sweet – glaze, string icing, or sift with powdered sugar
Savory – sprinkle with cheese, dip in sauce

Home-Based Baking at its Best! These strudels are fairly easy to roll out, adaptable to all types of fillings, and the dough keeps well in the fridge or freezer.

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How Hard is it to Make Hard Boiled Eggs?

April 2nd, 2014

With Easter approaching I’ve been making lots of hard boiled eggs for products.

In our last class we made Greek Easter Bread and Easter Egg Nests each with a fully cooked and colored egg.

Then during a recent supermarket trip I saw hard boiled eggs in the dairy case. Really? How hard is it to make hard-boiled eggs?

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But then I remembered the places where I’d worked and how even the gourmet eateries used convenience foods. One “fine dining” restaurant had lasagna on the menu. When a customer ordered lasagna, they probably envisioned a beautiful steaming pan made fresh that day. But this restaurant purchased a large frozen slab of Stouffer’s with precut pieces. Zip, into the microwave, then plated and served with a fresh slice of lemon and parsley sprig.

Using convenience foods or fully cooked frozen meals is not something we would expect from a restaurant kitchen. Especially the nationally recognized hotel chain where I worked as a pastry chef. Although I was expected to produce massive quantities of all-scratch baked goods, the line cooks used many frozen fully prepared items.

From The (Faux) Pastry Chef Page 101

We were both still in [Chef’s] office and I was getting restless – I had cakes to bake. Not to be deterred, Chef then began a wistful little speech about how having real cooks and bakers were what set us apart from other restaurant kitchens.

Oh, please. I was the short person whose lower eye view enabled me to discover the canned mashed potatoes under the grill line. I was the baker who heaved aside boxes of frozen, fully baked Sara Lee Danish and Donuts, and the frozen pie shells the cooks used for Quiche Lorraine, all to extract my “fresh” fresh frozen fruits from the cold storage department. I was the woman who waited patiently for the use of an oven while the morning cook thawed and warmed items for the daily breakfast buffet: pancakes, waffles, and French toast – all of them delivered to our loading dock fully prepared and frozen.

And let me not forget the bucket of frozen hard boiled eggs, a true kitchen time saver. How hard was it to boil eggs? The previous week the cook was out of these frozen eggs and said, “Maybe I will give them donuts, instead.” Well, that’s a good substitute. The only thing those two have in common, is that both arrive in a box and are frozen.

But I didn’t speak. I had nothing else I could say to Chef Nico. I stood there and looked at this man. He was wasting my time.

And the real food he had talked about? Let me give you an example of how the Hotel Gold line cook scrambled eggs. First, delete any picture you might have of eggs being cracked onto a hot griddle. Next, delete that picture of whole fresh eggs anyplace on premise. We had our choice of egg containers, a shell not being one of them. There was either a waxed quart box, reminiscent of a quart milk container, called Easy Eggs. Or there was a huge and heavy two-gallon clear plastic and formless bag filled with pre-beaten stabilizer enhanced eggs called a bladder.

My first day of work, never having seen one of these bladders before, the first thing I did was squirt a gallon of color-enhanced eggs across the room, onto the flour bins and floor, and down my leg into my new sneakers. This was all in one shot. I was wet and yellow the rest of the day, except for my face, which was surely a pretty shade of pink.

My second day on the job, I was about to put some cakes into the oven when two huge steam table pans of jiggly opaque yellow jello caught my eye. Jello in the morning? Yellow jello, with steam rising from its depths? I was stumped as to what it could be. Then I saw Masud, our Algerian line cook, standing there with a butter knife. He was cutting the jiggly mass into small squares.

“Masud, I have never seen anything like that before. What is it?”

He looked at me quizzically, like I was possibly making a joke that had to do with American culture. He might have been right, I did like to joke around, except I really had no idea what that stuff was. I could not even guess.

“Scrambled eggs,” he replied as a matter of fact, pleased that he finally knew more than a pro baker.

I have no doubt that as the residents were scooping “scrambled eggs” onto their breakfast plates, they truly believed there was a cook in the hotel’s gourmet kitchen cracking fresh eggs into a frying pan.

Real restaurant food? Ignorance was breakfast bliss.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Easter Holiday Bread Class

March 26th, 2014

Every holiday comes with specialty baked goods unique to that holiday. Last night our class made Greek Easter Bread, Hot Cross Buns, and Easter Egg Nests.

Dough rising in proof box.

Forming the loaves and buns.

Storm alert! Time out to check the weather forecast.

Breads, cooling on the rack.

Whew, storm is passing far enough away!!

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Everyone leaves class with breads to share with friends and family.

Holiday Sweet Dough
Yield: 2 pounds dough
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 tsps mixed spices (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc), optional
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast (1 packet)
¾ cup water
2 eggs
¼ cup oil
colored eggs, optional

Icing
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup (approx) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon extract

1. Add ingredients to your breadmachine in the order listed on your appliance; use dough cycle.
2. When done, turn dough onto lightly floured surface and scale into 2 ounce pieces for hot cross buns, 1 pound for Greek Easter Bread, 6 ounces for egg nest. Shape dough according to preferred bread. Proof until doubled in size.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a medium golden brown. Cool before icing.
5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with the confectioners’ sugar, water, and extract. Adjust until the icing is stiff enough to hold its shape

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Whenever possible, in making new or holiday products,  tweak your own recipes.

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May I Bake/Sell Products Using Cookbook Recipes?

March 19th, 2014

I often get copyright questions from business owners about the legality of using recipes found in cookbooks, magazines, websites, or any source.

The short answer: You may use any recipe for your product line, there are no copyright restrictions.

For business owners interested in making products for sale, there are no worries. You might be thinking about copyright infringement, but that only relates to copying and reproducing the written work of another person.

What you’re not allowed to do with sales: pretend that your product is from another company. For instance, you make cinnamon buns and name them Cinnabon Rolls. It’s a deceptive practice to name your product using another company’s business name or product name. This would confuse customers and take business from that company.

Your product line recipes, whichever ones you use, are your livelihood. So if you chose a well-known recipe, such as the Nestle Toll House cookie, and customers rave about your incredible treats, just smile and say thank you. Let them keep buying your cookies instead of making it themselves.

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Best Ever...

Home-Based Baking at its Best! For product sales, anyone may use any recipe found anywhere. No restrictions. (Unless, of course, you steal a recipe from a locked safe, in which case you would be arrested for theft, not copyright infringement.)

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Starting a Home-Based Food Business?

March 12th, 2014

I periodically re-post this topic for new readers:

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Across the U.S. more than forty states currently have a cottage food law that allows for legal operation of producing and selling food from your home kitchen.

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But there’s way more to this venture than simply creating a Facebook page. And certainly more than just having fun in the kitchen.

If you want to run a legal, profitable business, I have a few suggestions:

1) Start baking or cooking and keep notes on everything you do. Look for uncomplicated, easy to make, great tasting recipes. Think about ease of production – you don’t want anything too fussy when you’re starting out. Think about shelf life – you want something to last at least a few days. And it’s best to avoid expensive ingredients when you’re new to the business side of food.

2) You’ll need a business name and a name for each of your products. Begin making lists.

3) Set up a bookkeeping system. Running a legal business includes keeping track of income and expenses and declaring your income to the IRS.

4) Learn to price your products. There’s no point in just pricing based on what you think customers will pay, or what the supermarket charges. It’s important to know how much each product costs you so that you’re not subsidizing a business with your personal money.

5) Write a business plan. If you want this venture to be profitable, it will help you understand the underlying issues involved in running a business.

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Yes, I know it can seem overwhelming. For more help, read Start and Run a Home-Based Food Business . Read it through, but don’t let any of the business aspects scare you. When you’re ready, contact your local health agency, your state’s department of agriculture and markets, or use the links provided with my book. States and provinces have different licensing procedures, so be sure to follow the guidelines in your area.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Important tip: Before you start a business, get used to the reality of daily food production. You may love baking cookies and brownies, but it’s different when you have customers and orders to fill.

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Hot Cross Buns!

March 5th, 2014

When Hot Cross Buns appear, we know spring is approaching.

Hot Cross Buns can be made from most bread doughs. If you already have a favorite recipe and prefer to use one that is familiar, simply make minor modifications. Add a little extra sweetener (sugar or honey) and fat (oil or butter), and a handful of dried fruits. Richer doughs need a longer proof time so let it rise until it’s almost double.

My recipe, below, is made in a breadmachine, but it can also be made in a stand mixer or kneaded by hand. It makes just under two pounds of dough to yield 1 ½ dozen buns, but it can be scaled up to whatever quantity you need.

Hot Cross Buns
Yield: 18 (2 ounce) buns
¾ cup water
2 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar
½ cup butter, very soft
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon mixed spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc)
1 cup mixed currants, cranberries, apricots or raisins, optional

Icing
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup (approx) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon extract

1. Add ingredients to your breadmachine in the order listed; use dough cycle.
2. When done, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and scale into 2 ounce pieces.
3. Round dough into balls and place on large baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone sheet. Or place close together in (2) 9 inch square pans or a 9×13 pan.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Proof until doubled in size.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 20 -30 minutes, until deep golden brown. Cool before icing.
6. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with confectioners’ sugar, water, and extract. Adjust until icing is stiff enough to hold its shape.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you’re making these for sale try baking in paperware or foil pans with domed lids that won’t disturb the soft icing. If your business centers around meals (boxed lunches, meal delivery service, etc.) consider adding a complimentary hot cross bun with their order. It’s a way to reinforce that their business is important to you.

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Irish Soda Muffins

February 26th, 2014

St. Patrick’s Day will be here soon. We’ll see most bakeries and markets carry the traditional Irish Soda Bread. Have you thought about tweaking the product to offer something a little different?

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Muffins are fast and easy, and the individual portion size might reap more customers.

Irish Soda Muffins
Yield: 6-12 large muffins
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup oil
1 large egg
1 ½ cups buttermilk
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups total mixed dried fruit and nuts (raisins, dried cranberries, dates, walnuts, etc)
Optional, streusel

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and grease large 6-cup muffin pan(s).
2. Mix butter, oil, egg, and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix together all remaining ingredients (except streusel, if using). Add wet ingredients to dry; combine well.
4. Scoop thick batter into muffin cups, sprinkle with streusel, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Tops are a light golden brown when done.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Muffins are an unusual size for this traditional product.

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Whimsical Breadsticks

February 19th, 2014

For all you bread bakers out there, it’s time for another look at new product development.

Whimsical breadsticks!

Customers appreciate the familiar yet unusual product. Most of us are aware of breadsticks, but these are a silly twist on an old idea. I use the recipe below, but any of your favorite recipes will work.

Breadsticks
Yield: approx. 2 pounds, enough for several dozen breadsticks
1½ cups water
1-2 tablespoons oil
1 or 2 teaspoons sugar, optional
4 cups flour – all-purpose or part whole wheat bread flour
2 teaspoons large grind black pepper, optional
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast

1. Add the ingredients to your bread machine in the order listed here or according to your machine’s instructions.
2. Use the dough cycle and watch the mixing for the first few minutes. The dough should clear the bottom and sides and only occasionally stick to the pan. If the dough appears wet and sticks a lot, add more flour. If it’s clunking around, add (only) a few teaspoons water. (If the dough is too dry, it’s hard to press or roll out. If it’s too wet it’s difficult to work with. However, it will taste delicious, regardless.)
3. Once the cycle finishes, dump dough onto a lightly floured counter. Divide into small pieces and roll each piece into a log. Form into meandering sticks, place on baking trays, spray with water, and sprinkle with herbs, cheese, or large salt pieces.
4. Bake for 20 minutes more or less, at 375 degrees F more or less. Bake until golden brown.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! These are unusual and fun to eat. And a nice addition to anyone’s product line because they are so different!

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Easy Valentine Ideas

February 12th, 2014

An easy way to bake and sell treats for this holiday: use your everyday recipes but bake in heart-shaped pans; or roll out dough to cut with heart shaped cutters. Then add stickers and red ribbons to your boxes and bags, and customers will be happy.

Coffeecakes baked in heart shapes.

Mocha cake in disposable heart bakeware, decorated with chocolate covered coffee beans.

Nothing fancy here: a supermarket bakery trick, simply add some heart decorations.

Package your product line in decorative tins.

Shortbread cookies with raspberry jam.

Pastry hearts and mini pies filled with cherries.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you’re new to the baking business and not ready for sales, use this time to do market research. Look through magazines, search internet sites, visit a few stores, watch what customers are buying, and take notes. Next year you’ll be ready for a sweet and profitable season! Start your production early and begin selling a few items in mid-late January or early February. Take your cue from the advertising seen in stores and the media.

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