Archive for April, 2015

Business Class at SweetAmbs

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

How To Start A Home-Based Baking Business And Cookie Decorating Workshop

This class will be held at SweetAmbs studio in Beacon, New York. The day will be split up into two parts. In the morning, Amber of SweetAmbs will teach you some of her favorite cookie decorating techniques including flooding with royal icing, the wet-on-wet technique, and brush embroidery.

In the afternoon, guest instructor Mimi Fix of BakingFix will hold a lecture on The Home-Based Baking BusinessMore than forty states have a cottage food law that permits individuals to run a home-based baking business. This class is an introduction and overview of the necessary steps to running a profitable business; students will leave class with a checklist for getting started. For anyone interested in learning about the business of home baking, this class is for you.

The decorating portion of the class is suitable for beginners as well as those with some experience in cookie decorating. We will provide all materials as well as lunch and refreshments. You don’t need to bring anything with you to class.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Pastry Squares Using Summer’s Fresh Fruits

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Blueberry Pastry Square

Fresh fruit products sell very well during the summer months. Fruit squares – pies that are baked in slabs and cut into pieces for individual sale – are excellent sellers at farmers’ markets, coffee shops, and convenience stores.

For these types of fruit bars I like using a flaky pie crust recipe, but any favorite dough will work. Roll out a piece of dough large enough to cover the bottom of your pan, spread fruit filling over the dough, then top with another piece of dough. For experienced bakers, a lattice top looks nice but weaving the strips can be hard. Or use a streusel topping, which is easy and quite attractive.

If making a large sheet seems daunting, start practicing with smaller pans. Below, a loaf pan is quite manageable.

Peach filling over dough, in an 8x4 loaf pan.

The peach bars are sliced and sold with a heavy dusting of confectioners' sugar.

Bake until the top crust is brown and the filling has started to bubble. Cool completely before cutting, or the filling will not hold up.

If using local and seasonal produce, make sure your signs and labels reflect this. Adding the farm’s name is a good marketing strategy and is appreciated by your friendly neighborhood farmers.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Seasonal and local are key words.

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Sadly, Not the Best Bakery Tour

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

I rarely pass up an opportunity to visit bakeries. We can learn a lot from watching how others prepare food and how they deal with the public.

A few days after St. Patrick’s Day last month, we visited two bakeries. Both are multi-unit retail/wholesale businesses in the Boston MA area. Our first stop was Swiss Bakers.

I love their mascot on top of the building!

This outside window was a nice touch for customers to view the production area.

There were numerous products to choose from. We ordered lunch and treats, plus a box for home.

As we ate lunch, we saw a steady stream of customers.

I bought a mini-swirl bun filled with hazelnut paste. It looked beautiful, but it was dry, hard, and inedible. Unfortunately, of the six purchases, half were long past their shelf life. I owned a bakery and café for many years and understand the difficulties in keeping products fresh. But selling old products is not a good way to capture new customers or keep current ones.

On our way home we stopped at The Danish Pastry House, another well-known Boston bakery. We’ve visited before and had enjoyed our purchases.

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This visit, we looked through the cases while a very quiet, sour-looking clerk came out from the back room and ignored us. We saw several St. Patrick’s Day cookies. Uh, oh, St. Patrick’s Day had been celebrated the previous week. When we saw the old pastries, we automatically looked at other items in the case, wondering how old those were, too. We left without making any purchases.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! It surprised me that we found more than day-old products in two well-known local bakeries. It’s important to know the shelf life of all your products. Selling old or stale products is not the reputation that a bakery strives to be known for.

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The Custom Cake Business, FAQ (Redux)

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Recently, I wrote about the outlook for home-based baking businesses which remains strong for selling products such as breads, cookies, brownies, pies, etc. Baked goods are always in demand. These products are consumable – people are always looking to purchase delicious homemade goods that are eaten and then replaced with more delicious goods! With this kind of repeat business, it’s very possible to have a profitable home baking business.

But I had words of warning about the custom cake business. The market in some regions is already saturated with custom cake decorators. This includes sculpted cakes, wedding cakes, and finely decorated all-occasion cakes. If you are thinking about selling custom cakes, consider the skill-level necessary and the competition in your area.

I received many responses from people who are experiencing this current trend. If you are still considering a home-based custom cake business, you may want to read another piece, A Buyer’s Market Will Crush Your Fabulous Ad Campaign by the very talented Kara Buntin who owns A Cake to Remember, a custom wedding cake business in Richmond VA.

Wedding cakes by Kara Buntin

Sculpted cakes by Kara Buntin

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As I stated before, please remember the importance of writing a business plan. The time you spend doing this will force you to think through the details. The process will save you money and time that can be invested elsewhere.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Remember to do your market research.

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Biscotti Class

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

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Biscotti are twice-baked cookies which become dry and firm after extended time in the oven. With excess moisture removed through the twice-baked process, they can be stored for long periods of time without tasting stale. This classic coffee shop treat is a wonderful go-together with any preferred drink – coffee, tea, hot cocoa, wine, milk, or juice.

In last weeks class we made two kinds of biscotti – almond, and a cherry walnut. Biscotti is one of the easiest cookies to make. Dough is formed into logs and baked until firm and medium golden brown. An important key is to measure flour correctly – don’t add too much or the dough will crumble.

Before forming our logs we took some of the dough, rolled it into equal-sized balls, rolled the balls in colored sugar, and baked them once. We now had a tasty snack while waiting for the logs to bake.

After the almond biscotti was baked, sliced, and toasted, we drizzled them with chocolate.

Almond Biscotti
½  cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
optional, sliced almonds, 1/2 cup
optional, chocolate for melting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment or foil.
2. In medium bowl, beat together butter and sugar; then beat in eggs and extracts.
3. Add flour, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly combined. Mix in almonds, if using. This should be a soft, but firm dough.
4. Separate dough into two pieces. On prepared cookie sheet, form each half into a log.
5. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until no imprint remains when gently touched.
6. Cool until you can handle logs, then gently slice into ½-inch pieces. A serrated knife works best. Turn onto their cut sides.
7. With the oven still at 350 degrees toast for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
8. When cool, store airtight. Cookies keep well for several weeks.
9. Optional, drizzle with chocolate.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Remember, biscotti is a long shelf life product!

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