Archive for October, 2013

Giving Away Your Products, FAQ

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I’m frequently asked about the best way to handle give-aways and donation requests, and if these tactics help new businesses get started.

I often hear owners say things like, “I’m running a give-away” or “I left samples with all the teachers” because “it’s a way to get my name out there.” In my experience, giving away products is a great way to get your name out there to people who want free products.

Small businesses, especially new ones, are often targeted with all types of requests. Recently, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Tim Kreider  about a universal problem that affects all types of creative artists, whether they are painting, sewing, crafting, or baking. Kreider writes,

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors” is how the pertinent line usually starts.

When you have a food business, you’re an easy target for donation requests. And not only from legitimate charities, but from any business or individual with a “small budget.”  They say things like “it will be good for your business” or “it will get your name out there” or “think of all the exposure you’ll get” and don’t forget “you can display your business cards next to the cake!”

Occasionally it does happen that you reap more business by donating. But not usually. More often than not, getting your name out there (as with give-aways) only gets your name out there to even more people who are looking for something free.

Donating to a favorite cause can make us feel good, but I suggest you  pick a charity or two that you already feel good about and donate there. Then you won’t expect anything more for your donation than the immense satisfaction that comes with helping a cause you  support. Tell everyone else, “sorry, my budget won’t allow for more donations this year.”

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Raise your hand if you’re listening.

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Sampling Products, FAQ

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

One of the top ten questions from my students and readers:

I’m selling at a farmers’ market and many people ask if I have samples. Should I cut up some of my cookies and cakes so people can taste my products’ awesome goodness?

Yum! Free food!!

When you’re selling products at a market, it may certainly help sales if you have samples available. Samples are meant to help shoppers at your table taste and decide what they will purchase. Unfortunately, it may cost you more than you realize since the public often considers samples to be free food. Whether they are interested in your products or not, when people see a plate of food they head over and grab a handful, then keep walking.

I find this behavior somewhat aggravating. We’re in business to make money not provide free snacks. I suggest that if you want to sample, do it in a controlled way or the first ten people will grab (and empty) your “free food” plate. An easy way to control sampling is to cut your product into small pieces, then cover the plate and keep it out of sight. When shoppers stop at your table and show interest, show them the plate. A similar method is to purchase small cups or bags and put a small piece into each one. Then you only need to hand your potential customer an individual item.

If anyone else is walking past and requests one, too, ask if they are interested in your items or are just hungry. (Insert smiley face here!)

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Making it in the Cake Decorating Business

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Artist Mor Pipman, above, owns Much Mor Bread

Want to run a cake decorating business? Forget the glamour, running a business takes work. How to Make it in the Cake Decorating World was written by Elizabeth Marek, owner of the Artisan Cake Company. Marek does sculpted cakes from her licensed home-based kitchen in Oregon.

Topics covered in the article:
Learn to Bake
The Great Schooling Debate
Be Good at Your Job
Don’t be a Know-it-all Jerk
Don’t Lie, Cheat or Steal
Figure it Out
Be a Professional
Don’t Believe Everything You Hear
Never Stop Learning
Stop Comparing Yourself
Remember Where you Came From
Promote your Work
The Vendor Community
You Don’t Have to be Everything to Everyone
Don’t Wait for an Order
You can Say No
Invest in Your Business
Do You Enjoy 80 Hour Work Weeks?

Home-Based Baking at it’s Best! Don’t forget to write your business plan.

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Cookies for Breakfast?

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

We’re encouraged to eat donuts for breakfast. Advertisers also tell us to eat sugary sweet breakfast cereals, waffles and pancakes drenched in syrup, and candy bars masquerading as granola bars. So why not cookies?

Some ingredients do have nutritional value. Peanut butter cookies and oatmeal cookies are naturals for this type of better-for-you product.

Peanut Butter Cookies Crunchy and chewy, with a true peanut butter flavor! I’ve made this recipe thousands of times – it was one of my bakery’s top sellers.

½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup vegetable shortening (see note below)
½ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon molasses (see note below)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven 375 degrees F. Line cookie pans with parchment paper.
2. Cream butter, shortening, peanut butter, and sugar until light. Mix in molasses, egg, and vanilla.
3. Add both flours, baking powder, and salt. Mix well; this should be a very stiff dough.
4. Drop equal-sized portions onto the prepared cookie sheets and flatten with a fork making the traditional PB cross. If dough is sticky, dip fork into small bowl of water before pressing down on each dough ball.
5. Bake 10-15 minutes depending upon size, until bottoms are golden brown and tops appear split and dry.

NOTES: Vegetable shortening makes this cookie chewy and butter gives it a subtle flavor; but use all butter if you prefer. The whole wheat pastry flour (do not use WW bread flour which is from a hard wheat and will ruin the texture) adds another special touch. You can substitute 1 cup brown sugar for the sugar and molasses. Makes 15 large or 4 dozen small cookies. Can be stored in airtight container for up to a month.

Health aside, PB cookies are also fabulous when dipped in chocolate.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! These kinds of cookies sell well at farmers’ markets, health food stores, and food co-ops.

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Such a Deal!

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Really, such a deal for only $5,678!


If you plan on purchasing a copy of Home Baking for Profit please use this link. Because you want to make sure you’re buying at the best possible price.

Join me at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York on Saturday October 26 (9:30 am – 3:30 pm) for my next class, Home Baking Skills for Profit or Pleasure. (Book included in class price!)

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Fast and Easy Oil-Based Pie Dough

Friday, October 11th, 2013


For bakers who are not comfortable making the traditional type pie crust, there’s an easy alternative using an oil-based recipe. It makes a tasty crust that is fast and easy.

Butternut Squash


For fast clean up, roll out on waxed paper.

When an oil-based crust is fresh baked, the texture is different from a classic cut-in-the-fat recipe. So if you’re looking for flaky, read no further. But if you’re interested in a fast and easy product that holds up well (better than a flaky crust) give this recipe a try.

Oil-Based Pie Dough
enough for a 9” two-crust deep dish pie
3 ¾ cups unbleached flour (or 2 cups unbleached and 1 ½ cups ww pastry)
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp baking powder
⅞ cup oil (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons)
¾ cup milk or water

Use your favorite filling…

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and pan spray baking dish.
2. Stir all ingredients together. Don’t knead or work dough once it forms a rough clump. Add more flour if too wet.  Divide dough in half and set aside one piece. Roll out first half (use waxed paper for easy clean-up) and place in greased pie pan.
3. Depending upon pan size, filling, and thickness of crust, bake for 40-60 minutes.  Adjust oven temperature if top is browning too fast.

This recipe has a high ratio of oil to flour but that can be adjusted. If you like the concept of an oil-based dough, experiment by replacing a small amount of the oil with milk or water.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Your pie crust will not be flaky the first day. But after that, it’ll be comparable to any classic pie crust. If you’re a home-based business, this recipe is excellent for having a good shelf-life.

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Cinnamon Buns, a Popular Class

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Baking from scratch can seem challenging, especially when using yeast. But products such as bread and sweet buns are not that difficult. If you have a small home-based food business, consider adding yeasted items such as cinnamon buns to your product line.

In every basic bread class we talk about yeast and the process of baking bread and sweet buns.

Then we make a sweet dough (photo, back) and a lean sandwich dough (front).

Everyone has a 1 ½ pound piece of sweet dough.

The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle

and spread with butter.

A thick layer of cinnamon sugar is sprinkled over the butter

and the dough is rolled up into a log.

Pieces are evenly cut, placed on the tray,

and pressed down before proofing.

The tray of unbaked buns is placed in a warm environment to rise until time to bake.

Boxed up and ready to go home!

All students leave class with recipes, warm cinnamon buns, a tub of icing, and rolls made from the lean dough.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Fresh Fruit Cake, Product Idea

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Cooling on the stove top.

Last week the Hudson Valley Baking Society had a membership meeting. As usual, we also had a quarterly baking challenge: Bake something with pears!

My time was short so I made a fast ‘n easy fresh fruit cake with pears and blueberries. This recipe is similar to a fruit cobbler (all the fruit on bottom) but I used a cake batter instead of biscuits.

Fresh Fruit Cake on left, with a simple vanilla glaze. I was so pressed for time, this is the only other photo.

Fresh Fruit Cake
A simple cake that works for any seasonal fruit

Approximately 3 cups fresh chopped fruit, with or without skin
2 tablespoons sugar or cinnamon sugar
½ cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
confectioner’s sugar or glaze

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly spray an 8×8 pan.
2. Put chopped fruit into pan and sprinkle with (cinnamon) sugar.
3. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until smooth and thick. This can easily be done by hand.
4. Pour batter over fruit and bake for approximately 40 minutes, until cake looks golden brown and the fruit bubbles up around the rim.
5. When cool, either glaze or sprinkle confectioner’s sugar over top of cake. Refrigerate leftovers if keeping longer than two days.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! I’ve made this cake with peaches, plums, apples, pears, blueberries, or nectarines. It’s perfect for selling at the farmers’ market since it highlights fresh, local, and seasonal fruits. For whole cakes use disposable paper bakeware. For individual portions, can be made in paper-lined muffin cups.

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