Archive for May, 2013

Yeast: And a Price Check in Aisle 4

Friday, May 31st, 2013

With all this talk about cinnamon buns, you might be interested in purchasing yeast. Here is a yeast primer:

Yeast is a natural leavener for making bread rise. (Baking powder and baking soda are considered chemical leaveners.)

Instant Active Dry Yeast can be stirred directly into the dry ingredients without proofing. It was originally designed for breadmachines and is often called Fast-Rising, Rapid-Rise, Quick Rise, and/or Bread Machine Yeast.

Active Dry Yeast has a larger particle size than Instant Active Dry Yeast and must be “proofed” in water before using. Recommended water temperatures will vary by manufacturer between 100 – 115 degrees F as measured with an instant read thermometer. To test and proof active dry yeast: Add water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve. If it foams and bubbles within a few minutes, the yeast is alive and active.*

To substitute instant or breadmachine yeast for active dry yeast, use approximately 25% less instant yeast than active dry yeast.

Storage/Expiration Date: Dry yeast will keep far beyond the expiration date printed on the package, if stored unopened at room temperature. Once opened, dry yeast will keep 6 months longer in the refrigerator, and 12 months longer in the freezer. If using frozen yeast, no need to thaw before using.

Measuring Yeast: You do not need to be excruciatingly exact in measuring yeast since it’s going to multiply fast. A little less is fine – the dough will rise more slowly and may taste better. NOTE: Too much yeast, however, will give an unpleasant yeasty flavor and aroma.

Yeast is sold in small packets at a cost of $38-$45 per pound.

Sold in jars at $16-$27 per pound.

Sold in one pound blocks, $2-$3 per pound.

Let’s see, should I buy the pound brick package of yeast (comes in a two pack) for $2.28 per pound? Or maybe the jar … or perhaps the three-pack?

* Years ago, before breadmachines, the common way to make bread was to proof the yeast by first adding it to water and sugar. But when breadmachines came along, yeast manufacturing companies developed the instant yeast. Many of our cookbooks and recipes were written before then so in older recipes it’s common to see instructions still listed as “proof yeast in water and sugar….”

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Yeasted products are typically more time-consuming than chemically leavened products. But if you have a regular morning business, such as selling at a farmers’ market, consider adding cinnamon buns, a wildly popular product.

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Bread and Cinnamon Buns: Learning the Basics

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Baking with yeast yields wonderful homemade tastes and smells. Our kitchens can be filled with real homemade goodness. But learning the steps can seem daunting.

In my basic bread class we gain knowledge for making both a sweet dough and lean (sandwich) dough. In class, after talking about yeast, we make the doughs and let them rise.

Everyone has enough dough to make their own cinnamon buns.

Next, we scale off the lean dough for rolls.

Cinnamon buns fresh from the oven!

At the end of class we pack up rolls and cinnamon buns. The buns are still warm so (as pictured above) the icing goes home in a separate container.

Thanks again, Annie, for helping.

Annie Scibienski, from blue ribbon hearth, who specializes in artisan bread, will be teaching her own classes next semester!

I have another bread class on June 12. We’ll be making sticky buns and coffeecakes. To register, call BOCES (845) 331-5050. Hope to see you there!

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Granola, FAQ

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Granola is considered to be a strong part of the healthy eating trend.

Granola is one of the simplest products to bake and package.

When I started my business, I made three kinds of granola and sold them wholesale through my local food co-op. Every week I delivered in bulk, using recycled five-gallon molasses tubs. Granola was not a well-known or popular product at the time, but co-op members were familiar with it and bought large quantities of this breakfast cereal.

Granola has an exceptionally long shelf and recipes can be adapted to a wide variety of flavors.

This variation includes coconut, cranberries, and walnuts.

One of the most frequent questions I receive is about recommendations for a product line. Although granola is now a saturated market with corporations selling artisan-style products, there is always room for small home-based food businesses selling locally, especially at a farmers’ market. I suggest you package in plastic or poly bags and skip the expensive glass jars.

Basic Granola
1 ½ cups oil
1 ½ cups honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
10 cups regular rolled oats
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup nuts
½ cup sesame or sunflower seeds, optional
2-4 cups mixed coconut, raisins, craisins, chopped dates, pineapple, etc.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or pan spray baking pans.
1. In a large bowl or stockpot, mix together oil, honey, vanilla, oats, salt, and nuts. Reserve remaining ingredients to avoid burning: these should be mixed in after granola is finished baking.
2. Scoop ingredients into a large, deep pan (roasting pan or lasagna pan works well), or two jelly roll pans. Bake at 325 degrees for approx 60 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully, if your oven runs hot you may need to drop temperature to 300 degrees. When granola is a deep golden brown, remove from oven and stir in remaining ingredients.
3. Stored in an airtight container, granola keeps for several months.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Food Swap-A-Tunity

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Last week I attended my first Food Swap. I brought peanut butter cookies boxed by the dozen, with a plate for sampling.

Food Swaps are a relatively new idea, and spreading to many parts of the US. What is a Food Swap? These are a “recurring event where members of a community share homemade, homegrown, or foraged foods with each other. Swaps allow direct trades to take place between attendees, e.g., a loaf of bread for a jar of pickles or a half-dozen backyard eggs.”

Last week's small event was held at the Clinton Community Library located in Rhinebeck, NY.

Librarian Terry, left, and Annie (who owns blueribbonhearth, a small home-based food business) hosted the event.

MrMacho, above, is yakking with Terry.

These events are opportunities to taste different foods and meet your neighbors. Terry and Annie plan to grow the idea by hosting quarterly swaps.

How can attending a Food Swap help your business? Use this is an opportunity to introduce people to your products. But this is not the place for heavy marketing. Put your business card on an unobtrusive place (bottom) with the name of your product. If people like it, they will find you!

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Thank You, Trouble

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013


For those who have not read my last book, I wrote about having some issues with my hands that compelled me to leave behind the heavy work of commercial baking.

From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix (pages 168, 185)

I had been quite lonely so we got a dog, a sweet-natured German Shepherd. We named her Trouble.

Most of my days were the same: I would spend an entire day without seeing anyone. Alone with the puppy, I remained unwashed and in pajamas. I felt lost without having a job or a regular schedule. I needed projects and a structure to my time.

Because of Trouble, I got involved in a dog biscuit project. Real baking was difficult but I figured it didn’t matter how I messed up dog recipes, who would complain? Living with a pastry chef was paying off for the puppy.

I learned that baking for dogs gave me the same rush that I got from baking for people. My first attempt was oatmeal biscuits sweetened with a dab of blackstrap molasses and tenderized with peanut butter. One for puppy. One for me. I was surprised at how tasty they were.

I entered a new world. Several inherent problems with baking for people were no longer problems with canine cookies. Shelf life, who cares? Who would know? Rarely would someone complain for their dog about a doggie biscuit being stale. And what about a cookie that is too dark or too bland or too ugly or too anything? I didn’t want to sound cocky, but it was beginning to look like I could not possibly mess up dog treats.

“I’m now a pawstry chef,” I emailed my daughter, excited about this new project.

I made veggie/cheese mini mutt muffins and Trouble loved them. The muffins had a beautiful golden yellow color inside, with flecks of orange and green veggies. My ingredient list included organic whole wheat flour and wheat germ with no sweetener or salt. These would make any health zealot proud. I put them on the table and Dave loved them, too. I waited until he had eaten four. When he told me how good they were, I explained that we were eating the dog’s food.

I called our vet and made an appointment – this one was for me. I wanted to make sure I was using pooch-friendly ingredients. The vet said no grapes, no onions, no chocolate; everything else was fine in moderation.

I made banana mutt mini muffins one night for dinner. They were suspiciously like my fruit-sweetened baked goods recipes. I made a note to use a cross reference in my recipe file index. The texture was soft and tender with a flavor reminiscent of real banana muffins.

Then, I had half a can of pumpkin puree left from a no-sugar recipe, so I made dog biscuits. I used little boy and girl gingerbread cutters and called them Pumpkin People. Trouble came into the kitchen and sat watching patiently while I rolled out the dough with my new one-handed rolling pin. I had a terrible time with my hands that day and I kept messing up. The dough landed on the floor more than once. But no matter how much I tried, there was no way I could ruin a doggie recipe…

My next baking project? I momentarily thought about a little dog biscuit business for when my hand healed. I requested the official guidelines and licensing information from the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The rules were overly cautious when compared to the rules for making people food. I could easily get a home processor permit to bake numerous people treats in my home kitchen but not for animals. For dog treats, I would need to use a fully inspected and licensed commercial kitchen. Each recipe had to be analyzed and approved before production. Animals were protected more than my neighbors!

Thank you, Trouble, for 11 great years.

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Sweet Jimmy’s

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Look who we found at the regional market in central New York.

Sweet Jimmy’s is a relatively new home-based food business in central NY that makes traditional, vegan, and gluten-free products. I was impressed with their unique product concepts and unusual flavor combinations.

We bought Sundried Tomato Butter Cookies and Lime Coconut Macaroons. Fabulous!

After returning home I visited their website and drooled over these chocolate creations.


And I was totally impressed with these Emoti-Cookie Pops.

Thank you, Jimmy, for letting us use some of your photos! Visit Sweet Jimmy’s on Facebook.

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Baking with Almond Paste

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

There’s something special about almond paste. It gives products a subtle flavor and adds a nice texture. A couple of weeks ago I bought a case and made:

Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies, MrMacho’s favorite.

Almond Cherry Biscotti

Almond Buttons

Pear Frangipane Tart

Saturday, after our Hudson Valley Baking Society (HVBS) membership meeting, we had a workshop, Baking with Almond Paste.



(The mixers were not entirely cooperative.)


That afternoon at home I made another Pear Frangipane Tart.



Frangipane is an almond filling made with almond paste (or ground almonds). This filling is most often spread over a crust (tart, cookie, or pie crust) and topped with fresh fruit. Bakeries keep a supply of tart shells par-baked and stored at room temp until ready to finish.

For the above tart, use your favorite sweet cookie crust dough; reserve a small amount of dough to use as a streusel topping. Press most of the dough into a pan and parbake until a light golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, spread a thin layer of frangipane, and top with a layer of fresh fruit. Sprinkle remaining dough/streusel and bake at 350 degrees until done (approx 20 minutes) until the crust is a deep golden brown and the top is a light brown. Cool before cutting.

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.

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Baking a Difference in the Hudson Valley

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

This past week, the Hudson Valley Baking Society had a project: BOCES asked us to make 50 boxes of cookies! These were a thank you for the area healthcare facilities that sponsored nursing students throughout the year.

We used the 20 quart Hobart and mixed 4 batches of dough, 64 dozen cookies per batch.

Some of the cookies were divided and baked while others were first rolled in sprinkles.

We ran out of baking sheets and had to stack warm cookies to free up more pans.

What a project!

In the meantime, nursing students came to help. They set up the boxes

and filled them with cookies.

See those two cooling racks on the right? These racks had been filled with cookies.

Hudson Valley Baking Society Baking a difference in the Hudson Valley

Read about our holiday bake sale when we raised $1200 for our regional food bank.

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