Archive for May, 2015

Renting a Commercial Kitchen

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Cottage food laws across the U.S. allow people to operate a food business from their home kitchen. This is always the easiest and cheapest way to start a business. But for those folks who cannot use their own kitchen, or want to make products that are not permissible under their cottage food law, consider renting (or bartering) to use a commercial kitchen.

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Culinary incubators (shared use kitchens) were originally created to help small food businesses become viable operations. Because these shared use kitchens were subsidized by non-profit organizations or state-funded programs, their fees were very low. This made for affordable entry into new business ownership.

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However, now there are private businesses that operate for-profit shared use kitchens. These rental kitchens can be cost-prohibitive for a small business. For a new food entrepreneur with limited capital and little business experience, it gives their business a rocky start.

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Think about this aspect when writing your business plan. If you need to find a commercial kitchen space, do the math. Think realistically about how much time is needed to start and finish your product, then multiply the number of production hours by the hourly rate, and add in the surcharges. How much product must be sold to cover the cost of ingredients, packaging, insurance, and rent. Is there any left to pay for your time?

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If you need to rent a commercial kitchen, take a look around your community. There are many commercial kitchens in every community: churches, social service organizations such as VFW or Knights of Columbus, fire stations, schools, pizza shops, restaurant and bakeries in their off hours. Renting these kitchens can be as little as $8 per hour and many of these organizations or businesses will consider a trade – you leave them cakes or brownies, and you get to use their kitchen. Sounds like a fair trade to me.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Pie Class Practice

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

It was another excellent pie class! We made fillings and pie dough, then rolled out our crust. Making great pies is a matter of practice, practice, practice…

We rolled out the dough

then added the filling.

A few important points: 1. Have fillings made before rolling out the pie crust. 2. Rolling cold pie dough is easier, but you can also make the dough and roll it immediately. 3. Use a light touch and lots of flour when rolling out dough.

Everyone took home two pies - a double crust apple and an open-faced walnut chocolate chip. Plus a few bonus strudels.

We had extra dough and filling, so while waiting for the pies to bake we rolled out strudels filled with either apple, cherry, or a raisin/date/apricot mixture.

Everyone kept calling the apple strudel "Apple Burritos."

For extra pointers with step by step photos, read Perfect Pie Crust Tips and Tricks for the Beginner, a blog post by Pam Harris.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Customers love fresh fruit pies. If you don’t already have pies in your product line-up, please consider adding them during the summer season.

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Revisiting Granola

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Maple Walnut Granola

Healthier eating is a strong current trend. So although supermarket shelves and gourmet stores are saturated with granola products, for some baking businesses it’s worth pursuing.

Bake magazine had an article last month, “Grow business with granola” that addressed the strong trend of healthier eating:

“Snacking is a normal occurrence in many people’s daily lives. But while some people choose to reach for greasy potato chips when the snack craving strikes, more and more people are opting for healthier snack options. According to a Statista survey of approximately 24,000 American adults from January 2013 to March 2014, some 56.5 percent of American households eat nutritional snacks. Additionally, approximately 16.8 percent of American households eat chewy granola snacks more often than other nutritional snacks, such as fruit.

“This data points to a potentially new market to which your retail bakery could appeal: granola. By adding granola to your existing product line, you can easily reach this healthy snacking crowd. Doing so has already paid off for Heather Hardcastle, chef and owner of Flour Craft Bakery in San Anselmo, CA.”

The article continues, with some very excellent sales and marketing ideas. But ends with a clear message to those interested in introducing this product. “If you are thinking about launching a granola line, Hardcastle offers this advice: “Cereal/granola is a competitive category. Make sure your product stands out in a fundamental way or that your process yields a unique result, as shelf space is limited.

Artisan food is another strong trend now.  If granola is something you can sell locally, you have an excellent chance of success. But if you envision your product sold outside your region, think it through. Just remember that there are many great products catching dust on gourmet food shelves.

Maple Nut Granola
1 ½ cups oil
1 ½ cups maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon maple extract, optional
10 cups regular rolled oats
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 cups any combination of nuts (walnuts, pecans, filberts, etc.)

1.Preheat oven to 325° and lightly grease (2) 9×13 pans
2.In a large bowl or stockpot, combine oil, maple syrup, vanilla, maple extract if using, and salt.
3.Add oats and cinnamon and mix thoroughly. Mix in nuts.
4.Divide mixture between two pans and bake 20 minutes, then stir contents and bake another 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 300° and bake 10-15 minutes longer. Check mixture at 5 minute intervals. When it’s a deep golden brown, it’s done. Do not overbake or it will taste burned.
5.When granola is fully baked, remove from oven to cool. If you like large pieces, press the mixture down with a spatula before cooling. Break up any chunks that are too large and store in an airtight container or plastic bag. Keeps several months.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Consider packaging granola in snack-sized bags. It’s viewed as a healthier impulse purchase, especially at farmers’ markets and convenience stores.

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Handmade Cones, New Product Idea

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Several years ago when I worked in corporate R&D, I tested an interesting cone-shaped product from a large bakery manufacturing company. It was dark brown, made from pretzel dough, sprinkled with large salt crystals, and shaped like an ice cream waffle cone but with the texture of a sturdy cracker.

The brochure said it was a new product for ice cream shops. But I kept picturing it as the perfect vehicle for savory foods and salads. This was the mid-1990′s when fairs and festivals were expanding their visitor base and the fast food industry was promoting hand-held meals. Since then I’ve occasionally seen small pretzel cones advertised by the Joy Ice Cream Cone Company, but it’s never caught on. Sadly, the salty waffle pretzel cone didn’t gain momentum. I was heartbroken.

That was a new product developed long before it’s time. Now, however, with the advent of healthy, handmade, artisan style everything, the time might be right! If anyone was interested in handmade cones, you could make healthier ice cream waffle cones using whole grain flour, organic ingredients, and/or flavored with herbs or spices.

Or make salad cups! Excellent for hand held on the go eating.

Last week on Facebook I posted a video from America’s Test Kitchen that featured how to make ice cream cones.

The video features how to make artisan ice cream cones.

Learn the complete how-to by watching the video.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you decide to try pretzel cones and need help (but preferably, you need testers) you know where to find me…

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