Archive for September, 2013

Ranger Cookies, Product Idea

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

What's a Ranger Cookie?

These cookies are very sweet, chewy, and crunchy. They’re similar to oatmeal cookies but also include a large amount of store bought breakfast cereal such as cornflakes, krispies, etc. Other optional ingredients are coconut, dried fruit, or chocolate chips.

One of my clients owns a bakery café and runs a weekly contest. The winner gets to choose which cookie will be featured the following week as a half-price special. Her winning customer requested Ranger Cookies.

No one knows the origin of its name. I’ve read that this cookie began in Texas and was originally called Texas Ranger Cookies or Lone Ranger Cookies.

Most Ranger Cookie recipes are alike and way too sweet. My version uses less sugar and more dried fruits (dates) which adds natural sweetness.

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Ranger Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen large cookies

1 cup butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups breakfast cereal
1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups chopped dates
1 cup coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line pans with parchment paper.
2. Cream butter and sugar, then beat in molasses, eggs, and vanilla.
3. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix well; stir in cereal, oats, dates, and coconut.
4. Drop equal-sized amounts on prepared cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees F. for 12-15 minutes until edges are a medium brown and centers are puffed. Cookies flatten as they cool.

For storing, use waxed paper or parchment paper between layers.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Cookies with oats and dried fruits are a healthier choice and work well as a breakfast or snack cookie. If you sell at a farmers’ market, using half whole wheat pastry flour makes them an ideal product.

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Dealing With Customer Complaints

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

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It’s a rare business that never has to deal with customer complaints. According to Small Biz Viewpoints “The complaints in and of themselves are not going to hurt your business much. It is how you deal with them that determines how they will impact your future business.”

The article has five suggestions:
1. Listen and nod
2. Do NOT argue
3. Offer to fix the problem
4. Offer concessions
5. Keep track of complaints

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Read article “Proven Techniques to Deal with Customer Complaints”

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Homemade Pop-Tarts, Product Idea

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

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Everyone loves pop-tarts! These treats are easy to make. You can use a pie crust mix, pre-made dough, your favorite pie dough recipe, or the recipe I posted below.

And for those who like a lot of icing...

Pie Dough
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
6 tablespoons cold water
extra flour for rolling out dough

Filling – jam, chocolate chips, nutella, fruit compote (a great way to highlight seasonal and local produce)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and line cookie trays with parchment paper.
1. Lightly mix flour and salt then cut in butter. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in cold water and mix into ball. Knead lightly. Roll out immediately or wrap and chill. Dough can be made several days in advance.
2. When ready, roll out dough into a rectangle approx ⅛-inch thick. Cut dough into equal-sized rectangles. On half the pieces, spread with a little jam but leave a ½-inch border. Do not use much or filling will seep onto tray and burn. Place a piece of dough on top and use a fork to crimp edges together. Poke holes in dough, any pattern you prefer. Decorate top if desired; I used small cookie cutters to make designs.
3. For a shiny top, brush with beaten egg before baking.
4. Bake for 15-25 minutes depending upon size and thickness. Pop-tarts are done when top crust is a light golden brown and edges are somewhat darker. Glaze when cool.

Simple Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk or water

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Starting a Home-Based Food Business?

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

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

But there’s way more to this venture than simply creating a Facebook page. And certainly more to it 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 products to last at least a few days. And 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 pricing based on what you think customers will pay or what the supermarket charges. You will only attract cheap customers if you price based on the cheap cake lady in your community. It’s important to know how much each product costs you so that you’re not subsidizing a business with 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 and Home Baking for Profit. Read them 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!

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Marbled Cakes, Product Idea

Friday, September 13th, 2013

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For a simple way to create the marbled effect using your current recipes:

Make a batch of yellow cake. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons oil with ¼ cup cocoa. Mix well and add some of the yellow cake batter. Stir until thoroughly combined.

Pan as usual, then drop spoonfuls of choc batter on top and drag a knife or toothpick through both batters.

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And one more tip: using a scale helps to make all your items the same weight.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Convection Baking in Commercial Ovens, FAQ

Monday, September 9th, 2013

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FAQ: Help with Convection Baking

Q: Hey Mimi! Woo! Hoo! I finally got my license and will be renting space in a restaurant kitchen during their off hours. But help! They only have an old convection oven and I’ve never used one before. I’m nervous and think maybe I made a mistake. What should I do?

A: Congratulations on your license! If running a food business is what you want to do, then you haven’t made a mistake; you are moving up to the next phase. Before you begin production make time to learn how the ovens operate. Bring in a cookie dough and cake batter; spend time learning the controls and understand the oven’s quirks and hot spots. Compensate by adjusting oven temperature and pan rotation. Contrary to our ideas, convection ovens are not perfect. They have hot spots, too.

If the oven has a control that turns the fan off while baking, then bake without the fan until you’re used to the oven. If the fan does not have a turn off, use the Low setting. Adjust the baking temp down by about 50 degrees. You’ll have to do some test runs to see how it operates. Use only recipes you are familiar with so you’ll know what to look for while they bake.

Most important: Commercial convection ovens are more powerful than residential convection ovens.

Double stack convection oven.

For all home bakers thinking about transitioning to a commercial license: I’ve baked in many different types of ovens. I’ve learned that we can get used to almost anything.

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For a Sweet New Year

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

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Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This holiday is traditionally celebrated with a loaf of challah shaped into a circle, to signify the circle of life. It’s served with honey for a sweet new year.

Today is a time of introspection. It’s a time to look back at mistakes of the past year and plan changes we can make in the year ahead.

Challah is usually a braided loaf, but for Rosh Hashanah it’s baked into a round loaf to symbolize the cycle of life.

Challah for a bread machine, makes 2 pounds of dough:
1 cup milk or water
¼ cup honey or sugar
3 tablespoons oil
2 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
½ cup raisins, optional
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Add ingredients in the order listed, or according to directions for your bread machine. Set the machine on basic cycle for a fully baked loaf. For the round bread, set bread machine on dough; at end of cycle shape into two breads. Let proof until doubled in size and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees F. until a deep golden brown.

L’Shanah Tovah! Happy challah day for a Sweet New Year!

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Take advantage of celebratory days and offer customers real homemade foods.

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Honey Cake, Recipe Development

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Honey Cake, a classic Jewish New Year dessert.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown Wednesday, September 4. Honey is used to signify hope for a sweet new year.

I like honey, but have never enjoyed the classic honey cake, since they seem too dry.

This year I decided to tweak a couple of my recipes.

Sponge cake recipe.

Gingerbread recipe with honey and coffee (recipe below).

Honey Spice Cake
½ cup oil
½ cup honey
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup coffee
2 tablespoons liquor
2 ¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons mixed spices
almonds, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare (2) 8” cake pans.
2. Mix together oil, honey, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Then add coffee and liquor, beating well.
3. In a separate bowl mix all dry ingredients. Add to liquid and beat until smooth.
4. Pour into prepared pans, sprinkle tops with almonds if using, and bake for 35-45 minutes, until firm and cakes start pulling away from sides of pan.

Home-Based Baking at it’s Best! My recipe above is great! But my tip for the day: When you need a recipe, first look at your own to see if tweaking a tried and true will work for you.

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