Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Home Kitchens Meet the Bun Pan Rack

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Does your business baking turn your kitchen into a hunt for space?

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Do you dread the holiday production nightmare?

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I often receive questions from home bakers asking for help with this problem, especially when I show photos from my baking classes with this wonderful piece of equipment:

This sheet pan rack is old, but certainly does the job!

If you have a home-based food business you already know about heavy production in a home kitchen. Meet the home version of this commercial equipment, useful for cooling and storing baking pans as they come out hot from the oven.

Meet the half height bun pan rack.

The Webstaurant Store is only one of numerous restaurant equipment stores that sell many types of bun pan (or sheet pan) racks. The above rack is an end load half-height rack, designed for half sheet pans and can be assembled with or without wheels, and can be put away after the holidays. It holds up to 10 full size or 20 half size sheet pans and is not too costly. You can find new ones for just over $100.

You’ll find more tips and tricks for home kitchen efficiency in Home Baking for Profit.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Accounting 101

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

For most of us, bookkeeping and accounting are the worst parts of owning a business. But it’s best not to ignore the business side or you could end up going out of business. Before you throw together a Facebook page or flyer for door to door delivery, spend time learning and planning.

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QUIZ: Do you

  • look at the financial aspects of your business?
  • have a basic understanding of your expenses and your income?
  • know what your products cost to make?
  • know how to price products?
  • make sure your customers pay you?

You don’t need to hire a bookkeeper or an accountant. But to run a profitable and sustainable business, you need to have a basic understanding of your finances.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! For help with these issues read Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business.

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Holiday Cookie Decorating and Business Workshop

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

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On November 8, SweetAmbs and Baking Fix held a holiday cookie decorating and business workshop for twelve students. The day was split into two parts. In the morning, Amber taught some of her favorite cookie decorating techniques to make beautiful holiday designs. In the afternoon, we learned about the Home-Based Baking Business: an introduction and overview of the necessary steps to running a profitable business.

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The holiday cookies!

Amber demonstrated each technique before students began practicing.

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Cookies were left to dry on sheet trays. A fan promotes faster drying.

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Amber's display table with many of her cookies.

The table was a wealth of ideas for new business owners.

Thank you cookies! A great new product idea.

Amber's demos continued all morning.

Notice how Amber holds the bag and positions her arm.

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    Every student received a box to take home cookies.

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    We took a break and ate lunch provided by SweetAmbs. In the afternoon we talked about the business end of running a successful baking/decorating business.

    Keep an eye on Amber’s website for more upcoming classes. If you’re unable to attend classes at Amber’s studio in New York’s Hudson Valley, you can purchase video tutorials here.

    Notebook!

    Amber has notebooks, calendars, jigsaw puzzles, and note cards available on Zazzle.

    And the latest news: Amber’s decorating cookbook will be published next fall.

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    Join SweetAmbs and Baking Fix

    Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

     

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    How To Start A Home-Based Baking Business And Cookie Decorating Workshop! 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 to make beautiful holiday designs.

    In the afternoon, we’ll learn about the Home-Based Baking Business: Do you love to bake, decorate, and give away holiday cookies? Have you ever thought about selling your cookies? More 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.

    To register, visit SweetAmbs Classes

    Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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    ‘Tis the Season for Blueberry Pie

    Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

    Blueberry pie for my family

    and

    our neighbors.

    Are you a pie maker? Or are you afraid of this sometimes fussy pastry category? I wasn’t always fond of baking pies, but I loved making seasonal pies for my family. Rolling out one pie wasn’t too bad.

    But when I opened my bakery and café, mass producing these beautiful seasonal baked goods was unnerving. Thankfully, my bakers rolled out most of the pies. It wasn’t until years later, after I sold my shops, worked in corporate R&D, then as the sole pastry chef in a restaurant hotel kitchen, that my love for pie-making developed.

    From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix, page 98:

    When I first learned that pies were on the menu twice each week, I was rather distraught. I was not an ace pie-maker. I started my Hotel Gold career making one-crust pies, but after practice I was soon making them with two crusts.

    I was quite impressed with myself. It didn’t take as long as I thought; all that swearing made the time go faster. I made twenty-three pies each time they were on the menu – nineteen with sugar and four sugar-free. I always made pies first, before breakfast. I could take off my jacket and get them done before the kitchen was too unbearably hot, when both the dough and pastry chef would get soft and sticky.

    When I realized I could do a dessert night of pies in less than three hours, as opposed to a cake dessert that involved several long hours of mixing, baking, and icing, pies became my friend.

    The following recipe makes two 9″ double crust pies, or multiple small and handheld pies. When I don’t feel like rolling a top and bottom crust, I often make rustic pies – one large bottom crust that folds over the top of the pie.

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    Blueberry Pie!

    Filling
    8 cups blueberries
    1 ½ cups sugar, or more
    6 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg, optional

    Crust
    5 cups all-purpose flour (approx. 1¼ #)
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 cup butter (2 sticks)
    1 cup vegetable shortening (½ #)
    ¾ cup cold water
    extra flour for rolling out dough

    1. Mix all filling ingredients and set aside.
    2. Pan spray baking tins and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    3. In a large bowl, lightly mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening and butter. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in cold water and mix into a ball. Knead lightly, then separate into four pieces, two slightly larger. Use at once or wrap and chill one hour or up to five days.
    4. Don’t worry about working fast – take the time you need. Roll out larger pieces of dough and place in lightly greased pie pans. Trim any dough hanging more than ¼” over the edge. Add filling, roll out the top crust, and place on top of pie. Gently roll edge of the top and bottom crust together (I prefer to tuck the top crust under the bottom) and press down to seal. Flute edges, or not, in any way you want. Vent top of each pie. If you wish, pie tops can be brushed with water, milk, butter, or beaten egg. You can also sprinkle on sugar. Or just leave plain.
    5. Place pie pans on a cookie sheet with a large piece of parchment or aluminum foil under each pan. Bake in preheated 375° oven 45-60 minutes. Pies are done when juice has bubbled out for a few minutes.
    6. Let pies cool at least two hours before cutting. To freeze, cool to room temperature then wrap well and place in freezer.

    Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you have a home-based food business and do not make pies, consider adding this product line to your offerings. With the trend toward home-made, seasonal, and local, your customers would appreciate purchasing fresh pies during the summer months.

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    Food Safety and the New Food Entrepreneur

    Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

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    This photo was taken on a hot summer day at the farmers’ market. Food was not covered, flies and yellow jackets were feasting on the pizzas, and the vendor was eating while handling food.

    The issue of food safety scares me. I’m always amazed that more people don’t get sick from eating prepared foods purchased outside the home, whether from a supermarket, restaurant, or farmers’ market. (I’ve written many times about violations at farmers’ markets).

    I’ve been in the food industry for more than thirty years and I’ve seen first-hand how food is handled by people working in commercial kitchens. Throughout my book, The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix, I write about many of the repulsive things I’ve seen. From the introduction, page 3:

    For foodies interested in a look behind the scenes
    I’m sorry if this book spoils your appetite. When I purchase items in a bakery or eat in a restaurant, I often think back to what I observed in the kitchens where I worked. I have to not think about what might be happening when my food is being prepared.

    New food entrepreneurs with no food/business background are some of the worst offenders. Folks who are new to the business world are often so excited about a dream come true, but so overwhelmed with responsibility, food safety often ends up at the bottom of their to-do list. Food Safety News has a salmonella story which does not surprise me. Expert: Boston Restaurants Closed for Salmonella Had ‘Pitiful’ Food Safety Program. If you are a food entrepreneur, please remember that food safety belongs at the top of your priority list. A healthy customer is a repeat customer.

    For more about this subject: Food Safety News has updated information about food borne illness outbreaks and food recalls. More about food recalls from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Home-Based Baking at its Best! My best advice to everyone who wants to contribute to good public health: Never sell any food you wouldn’t eat yourself.

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    Holy Buckets of Brownies, Batman: Recipe Alert!

    Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

    Chocolate brownies are a classic treat and one of the top selling bakery sweets.

    Brownies!

    After my Valentine’s Day post a couple of weeks ago, a few people commented about finding the “perfect” brownie recipe. In my opinion, the “perfect” brownie recipe is one that’s easy, fast, and creates repeat sales.

    Brownie guidance from Baking Fix: 1. One pot recipes are the easiest and fastest. 2. Additions to the batter (nuts, chocolate chips, etc) are nice but not necessary. 3. Frosting is okay, but a soft frosting may be a problem with packaging. 4. The kinds of brownies you offer depends upon your customers and their particular preferences.

    Brownie bites!

    Chocolate Brownie Overdose This recipe makes an over-the-top chocolate experience for true chocolate addicts.

    Yield: (2) pans, 9x13x2
    15 ounces unsweetened chocolate
    6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
    3 cups (6 sticks) butter
    2-pound bag brown sugar
    3 cups granulated sugar
    12 large eggs
    ¼ cup vanilla extract
    4 ½ cups all-purpose flour (1 lb. 4 oz.)
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    2 teaspoons salt
    approximately 2 pounds of your favorite chocolate bars

    1. Preheat oven to 350º F and line (2) 9×13 pans with parchment or foil.
    2. Melt chocolates and butter in a large stockpot.
    3. Cool for ten minutes, then mix in both sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla; stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.
    4. Scoop about ¼ of the batter into the bottom of each lined pan, and spread to cover. Then cover the batter with your choice of candy bars. Carefully scoop the remaining batter over the chocolate and again spread to cover, smoothing the tops of each pan.
    5. Bake for 45 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325º and bake 15 minutes. If the brownies still seem soft and wet when a toothpick is inserted near the center, turn heat down to 300º and bake for another 15 minutes. This should be enough time to thoroughly bake the brownies.
    6. Cool and cut into large pieces. These are impressive wrapped individually and stacked on a platter.

    Top brownie has caramel, middle brownie has a chocolate bar, and bottom brownies have wafer candy/cookies.

    My book Home Baking for Profit has a chapter with fourteen brownie recipes along with variations, and several tips for baking and handling.

    Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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    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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    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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    Happy New Year Apple Cake

    Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

    Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown tonight. Many celebrants will eat Jewish Apple Cake, one of the traditional holiday desserts.

    Chunks of apples are mixed throughout this cake.

    There’s a minor controversy about what constitutes Jewish Apple Cake. The Washington Post states, “It might be labeled Jewish because there is oil rather than butter or lard in the batter.” Wikipedia, our worldwide fortress of information, has a different view. “Jewish apple cake is a kind of dense cake made with apples and sold mostly in Pennsylvania in the United States.” Readers are then directed to Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine.

    Sliced apples are pressed into the top of this cake.

    Since there is no standard of identity for many products, including Jewish Apple Cake, I feel that I’m allowed to call my recipe Jewish Apple Cake because my mother was Jewish. Bless her soul.

    Several years ago when I worked as a pastry chef for an upscale residence hotel chain, I used many of my own recipes:

    Jewish Foods
    I sometimes made my mom’s apple cake for dessert. There were many Jewish residents at the hotel, so I wanted to call it Jewish Apple Cake. Chef Nico refused to do it and looked at me with suspicion.

    “There’s no such thing as Jewish Apple Cake,” he insisted. “As an executive chef I am very familiar with Jewish foods and dietary laws.”

    So on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, his dinner menu posted in the lobby listed split pea and ham soup with Apple Cake for dessert. I saw the menu when I arrived at work. I could have told Chef that ham for a festive Jewish holiday meal was not the best choice, but I didn’t say anything.

    When the residents saw the printed menu, they stormed the office. Chef added Carrot & Apple Tzimmes as the vegetable, saved the soup for another day, and changed the dessert name by adding “Jewish.” Chef ate three pieces of that cake even though he was on a diet.

    From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix page 99

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