Archive for February, 2016

Food Safety for Home-Based Businesses, FAQ

Friday, February 26th, 2016

I sometimes hear from home-based food business owners who are incensed that they’re told what to do in their kitchens. Recently, a new business owner asked about “those stupid rules” and how strict they are, because “no one keeps a cleaner kitchen” than she does. She sent a couple of photos to prove her point.

I saw: a can of (chemical) bug spray between the faucet and an opened bag of flour; her child’s baseball mitt and bat leaning precariously over the shelf above her work space; ingredients in glass jars; the garbage can lid slightly open with items visible; a scale coated with food residue; and an ashtray. (Really? An ashtray?)

I’m sure she only focused on her neat counter and a stack of clean folded dishtowels. But she was in the middle of production; these things would be significant regulation issues to a health inspector.

Food safety classes can be found in most regions and many agencies offer online classes. There’s also free material on the internet. If you have not had a chance to look at food safety information, this brochure from the National Food Service Management Institute is a good start.

There are three kinds of hazards to beware of in food preparation.
1. Biological hazards: bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms cause 93% of the incidences of foodborne illness.
2. Chemical hazards: toxins, heavy metals, improperly used pesticides, cleaning compounds, and food additives account for 4% of the incidences of foodborne illness.
3. Physical hazards: foreign objects like glass, metal, plastic, and wood that may cause illness or injury if they find their way into food products.



Cloth towels are not allowed because they harbor germs and bacteria. After washing, air dry or heat dry all items.

Sponges are also known to harbor bacteria. They're allowed, but must be placed in bleach/water when not in use.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! In our own kitchens we often don’t notice potential health risks that trained inspectors can see. Guidance from professionals should be welcomed. Take notes!

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Friday, February 19th, 2016

For something different to offer your customers, bake with pears! Every year when in season, I make a few pear pies and strudels. This fruit has a pleasant, unique flavor.

Pear strudels.






The most important point about pear filling, is that pears should not be treated like apples. The filling needs to have an abundance of spice. That’s the single biggest mistake most people make and then complain it was a terrible, tasteless pastry.

Pear Tips:
1. Unlike apples, pears need to be ripe before baking. Otherwise, they have little to no flavor and the crunchy texture of apples. About pears. How to tell when a pear is ripe, plus other facts.
2. Remember, you are not making apple pie  or apple pastries, you are baking with pears. I’ve seen far too many recipes for pear filling that have no spice or just a pinch of cinnamon. Use enough spice to add flavor to your pie. I suggest using up to 50% more spice than you would if baking an apple pie. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom are all good spices to use.
3. For the crust, use any pie or strudel dough, phyllo leaves, or puff pastry dough. Below is my flaky pie crust recipe.

Pear strudel.


yield: 6-8 medium-small strudel
5 cups all-purpose flour (approx. 1¼#)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable shortening (1#)
¾ cup cold water (or use part vodka, part water)
extra flour for rolling out dough

Pear filling
6-8 ripe pears
½ cup sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon mixed spice, your choice of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom
½ cup flour (or ¼ cup cornstarch)

1. For filling, I gauge how much I need by how many strudels I will make. Approximately 1 pear per strudel. Mix all ingredients and set aside.
2. Line baking pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. For dough: In a large bowl, lightly mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in water and mix into a ball. Knead lightly, separate into pieces. Use at once (or wrap and chill for one hour or up to five days
4. For strudels, roll dough into a rectangle, spread filling, roll up and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Slit dough deep enough  to reach the middle of the strudel. This helps the center dough bake properly.  If you wish, tops can be brushed with water, milk, butter, or beaten egg. You can also sprinkle with sugar.
5. Bake in preheated 375° oven 45-60 minutes. Strudels are done when juice has bubbled out for a few minutes.
6. Let cool at least an hour before cutting. If wrapping for market, cool thoroughly before wrapping. To freeze, cool to room temperature then wrap well and place in freezer.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! With the trend toward home-made, seasonal, and local, your customers would appreciate purchasing fresh fruit pastries. If you want to be known for your incredible pear pastries, remember to NOT treat them like apple products.

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Non Edible Decorations, FAQ

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Over the years I’ve received questions about the difference between edible and non-toxic, and the use of decorations such as gold and silver dragees which are labeled non-toxic.

Dragees have been sold for years but are not legal for sale in many areas of the US.

Edible means your body treats the product as food, while many glitter decorations sold as non-toxic are made of fine grain plastic and are not digestible. “People with certain health issues such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, or IBS, must be careful about consuming foods such as seeds that can stick in the creases of the intestinal lining. Seeds don’t digest easily and plastic doesn’t digest at all. If those small things get stuck in that lining, even in a healthy person, serious infection can result.” For more information read “All That Glitters is Not Edible” and “Storm in a Cupcake.”

We see these pretty items everywhere: in bakery cases, magazine ads, on the internet, TV food shows.  The public trusts that all decorations are safe to eat. For consumer safety we should never use a decoration labeled non-toxic. It’s very confusing to the average consumer, but as food handlers it is our responsibility to understand the difference and not use these products.

FDA Advises Home and Commercial Bakers to Avoid Use of Non-Edible Food Decorative Products The FDA has come out with a clear warning that “… reminds commercial bakers that it is their responsibility as a food manufacturer — be it a large commercial bakery or a small, home-based business – to produce food that complies with the applicable FDA regulations and state and local laws. Manufacturers of food containing unsafe ingredients are potentially subject to FDA enforcement actions to keep unsafe products out of the marketplace.”

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Benefits of Selling Wholesale

Friday, February 5th, 2016


Selling products wholesale can be a great way to grow your business, but you have to know the rules. If you are working under a cottage food law, find out if you’re allowed to sell wholesale. If you bake in a commercial kitchen with a full license, you have no sales restrictions.

Most people equate wholesale with volume but this is not always applicable. Wholesale is selling products to a business that resells those goods. If you sell your baked goods this way, that business is reaching a market you may not be reaching. So while you give the business a discount for, say, two dozen cookies, you make one sale and don’t have to stand at the farmers’ market selling one cookie to each of twenty four customers over the course of the morning.

Setting up for cake baking day. Small cakes are for the local deli and pizza shops; large cakes for a couple of restaurants.

Cakes and pies are prime products for sale to restaurants and eateries. Look at the items you already make and talk with a potential account about baking them a signature product – a cake or pie that no other restaurant can purchase. Price your products and give the business a discount. Typically, perishable products are discounted differently than shelf-stable merchandise. I offer a 25% discount from my retail price. Don’t let anyone pressure you into lowering your price. Not all of your products may be worthwhile for you to sell wholesale. Decide which ones you will offer and make a wholesale list for customers.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! I began my baking career under New York’s cottage food law, where wholesale is allowed. During the warmer months I sold retail at the local farmers’ market and wholesale year round to several businesses. My income supported myself and young daughter. Best of luck to you!

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