Archive for December, 2014

A Business Plan for the Coming New Year

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Happy New Year everyone! For anyone thinking about starting a home-based food business, start the new year off right. Take the time to plan for your business. It’s worth the time and effort.

Plan for the coming year.

The most important ingredient for a good business outcome, is to plan for it. Start with a simple business plan or create something with more detail. My book, Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business, has a sample plan.

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There are also numerous sample templates available online. Your plan is a place to start, it does not have to be perfect. You’ll always be making changes and updating, but having a plan gives you a start to creating a viable, profitable business.  

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Writing a unique business plan is an excellent way for you to formulate a personalized plan, one that can help you meet your needs.  Good luck in the coming year!

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If writing a plan seems like too much work, then starting a business now may not be for you.

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Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

We hope you have a very merry holiday!

Giving Away Your Business Recipes, FAQ

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

You've worked hard to develop your recipes, taking care to get every pie crust, bread, and cake, absolutely perfect.

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You’re in business or hope to be soon. You’ve spent much time developing recipes which are unique and flawless. You have high standards and strive for baked goods that are so fabulous, customers will continually purchase your products and you’ll earn a good income.

One of the top questions I receive is the problem of people (customers, friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers) asking for recipes. This can be hard to deal with, especially if the request comes from a family member or friend.

I would never give away a recipe that is part of my business. I would be especially concerned about a current or future competitor who thinks my product is such a great seller they want to sell it, too. Giving away a recipe or special technique is like giving away the password to my bank account.

This won’t be the last time you have to deal with people asking for the secrets to your livelihood. Don’t give too many details, don’t feel like you have to explain, and don’t feel like you have to be totally honest. The simpler your response, the easier it will be. And just because you previously agreed to giving out a recipe, does not commit you now.

Come up with a statement and use it whenever the occasion arises:

“I’m glad you like _______. When I’m no longer in business I’ll make sure to give you the recipe.”

“Thank you for the compliment. My recipes are part of my business so I’m sure you understand why I can’t make them public.”

“Thanks so much for your interest! But this is how I make a living, so I can’t give away too much info.”

OR point them in the direction of a recipe site or cookbook. “Yes, these are delicious. You can find the original recipe on allrecipes.com (or someplace similar).

Some people can’t take no; there are always master manipulators. You’ll have to stay strong and remember they only care about themselves.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Never forget that you are the only one in charge of caring about you and your business.

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The (Faux) Pastry Chef Bakes Holiday Cookies

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Several years ago (a lifetime away, before Baking Fix) I’d accepted a high-status position as the Executive Pastry Chef for a national market and bakery. My new employer had enticed me with flattery about my baking skills and superb instincts for running a business. But after a short training period I realized that I’d made a mistake.

Have you ever fantasized about the wonderful life of a pastry chef? Here’s a peek into reality: from The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix page 49

Perfectly Pointless Cookies
Three weeks before Christmas the cookie recipes finally arrived. The attached note said we were to bake a few of each and mail them to [person-in-charge Corporate Pastry Chef] Susan. Most of these recipes were tedious to produce and had flavor issues in the balance of spices. I decided not to comment. At least I had already learned something: don’t give feedback, no one wanted my opinion.

I had no idea how Susan had decided on shape, flavor, or appropriateness to both the holiday and the staffing. Overtime for the hourly workers was not allowed, so I had the privilege of making these new recipes all by my lonesome. The first recipe I baked included lots of dried fruits and a store-bought breakfast cereal as main ingredients. I can’t tell you what the binder was, or I’d be giving away a trade secret, but suffice it to say that it didn’t bind all that well.

The recipe made a large amount of dough and I had to scoop miniature-sized cookies from a huge 80-quart mixer bowl. The instructions noted that they needed to be mixed carefully, so the cereal didn’t get crushed. Get crushed? The hard metal mixer paddle, along with thirty pounds of dried fruit had already smashed that delicate and crispy cereal into crumbs. By the time I put the unbaked trays into the cooler, most of these globs had already fallen apart.

Another one of these tiny cookies was a simple dough with an egg wash to hold down “perfectly sliced nuts carefully placed on the center top with the points facing outward like a little star.” Oh, please. Any novice baker knows that a twenty-five or thirty pound box of thinly sliced nuts has been jostled, stacked, and crushed before it arrives at its destination. We would never be lucky to find enough perfectly sliced pieces with their points intact. And, place them exactly in the center with the points all in the same direction? If I lasted a year, which was looking doubtful, I would voice an opinion on the realistic production of Christmas cookies. This bakery needed a dough depositor, a relatively small piece of equipment that could replace the hand-scooping of all their products.

In addition to the Perfectly Pointless Cookies and Susan’s Cereal Nightmare Cookies, there were three or four others, each with their own problems and each quite time-consuming. I mixed all the doughs and scooped thousands of these little cookie balls. I baked a few samples from each of the recipes and they all looked perfectly pathetic. I just figured it was another failure to add to my list of failures.

When [Corporate Trainer] Seranne decided to send Susan the box, she preferred to bake off some herself because mine looked terrible. But her attempt was worse than the ones I had baked. Hers were burned, deformed and very anti-Christmas. Next to her cookies, mine looked ‘perfectly’ awesome…

When Phanh started his shift, Seranne asked if he had any recipes. He had just come from his full-time job at the Marriott; in his pocket was the Marriott Christmas cookie formula, a bland sugar cookie distinguished by a sprinkling of red or green sugar. I don’t know what happened to the unbaked refrigerated trays of cookies I’d already made, but now I was told to bake this misappropriated recipe under the Planet Feasty name.

The Joy of Cooking had better recipes. I stated my disappointment that Feasty’s, with Susan’s supposedly high standards, unethically took another business’ recipe. “This is a case of ‘Do what I say, not what I do,’” I wrote in my nightly report. Not that I cared anymore, I just wanted management to know someone was watching. The next day, a week before Christmas, Seranne called her sister, whose home-sized batch of nut cookies replaced the Marriott cookies…

Too bad they hadn’t asked me, cookie baker extraordinaire and their new Corporate Pastry Chef. We could have made these easy sugar cookies. The recipe is adaptable to numerous variations. For the holidays I like to

add cranberries and pistachios

or bake small cookies and sandwich together with jam, then dip in chocolate and holiday sprinkles.

Sugar Cookies
Yield: approximately 10 dozen large or 40 dozen small
1 ½ pounds butter
1 ½ pounds shortening
6 pounds granulated sugar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup corn syrup
6 tablespoons vanilla extract
6 eggs
¼ cup baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
5 ½ pounds all-purpose flour
Optional toppings: sprinkles, colored sugar, chocolate chips, nuts, non-pareils, cinnamon sugar (Snickerdoodles), etc.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F; line cookie pans with parchment paper or silicone sheets.
2. Cream first three ingredients; make sure to scrape down the bowl and under the paddle.
3. Add the next four ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended. Scrape bowl again.
4. Add dry ingredients; blend carefully so flour doesn’t escape over the sides of the bowl. Scrape down paddle and bowl again; mix until thoroughly combined.
5. Pour topping ingredients into large, flat bowls. Using an ice cream scoop as portion control, drop cookie dough onto the topping, place dough (topping side up) on cookie sheets, at least 1” apart and flatten slightly. (Pan 48 small cookies per full sheet tray.)
6. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until edges are light golden brown.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! What are you making and selling this holiday season?

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Edible Gifts for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Did you know that food gifts are the top items for holiday gifting?

Bake magazine: Baked goods among top holiday gifts for giving

New consumer research from the Specialty Food Association and Mintel shows that chocolate, cheese and baked goods top the list of food gifts this holiday season. “The great news for gift recipients is that creativity is at an all-time high within these categories, and beyond there are more treats than ever, like handcrafted charcuterie, for the food adventurer in quest of new tastes,” says Louise Kramer, public relations director for the association.

You can bake special items for the holidays, such as bundt cakes, fruitcakes, sugared nuts, gingerbread, and pfeffernuesse, etc. Or simply dress up your regular menu items.

Little bundt cakes with powdered sugar.

Simple cookie trays are made

using your basic sugar cookies

and decorated with holiday cut-outs using a shortbread recipe.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Bread, rolls, pies, tarts, cookies, cheesecake, sweetbreads, muffins, cinnamon buns, and coffeecakes. What are you making and selling this holiday season?

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