Archive for the ‘The (Faux) Pastry Chef’ Category

‘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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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

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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How Hard is it to Make Hard Boiled Eggs?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

With Easter approaching I’ve been making lots of hard boiled eggs for products.

In our last class we made Greek Easter Bread and Easter Egg Nests each with a fully cooked and colored egg.

Then during a recent supermarket trip I saw hard boiled eggs in the dairy case. Really? How hard is it to make hard-boiled eggs?

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But then I remembered the places where I’d worked and how even the gourmet eateries used convenience foods. One “fine dining” restaurant had lasagna on the menu. When a customer ordered lasagna, they probably envisioned a beautiful steaming pan made fresh that day. But this restaurant purchased a large frozen slab of Stouffer’s with precut pieces. Zip, into the microwave, then plated and served with a fresh slice of lemon and parsley sprig.

Using convenience foods or fully cooked frozen meals is not something we would expect from a restaurant kitchen. Especially the nationally recognized hotel chain where I worked as a pastry chef. Although I was expected to produce massive quantities of all-scratch baked goods, the line cooks used many frozen fully prepared items.

From The (Faux) Pastry Chef Page 101

We were both still in [Chef’s] office and I was getting restless – I had cakes to bake. Not to be deterred, Chef then began a wistful little speech about how having real cooks and bakers were what set us apart from other restaurant kitchens.

Oh, please. I was the short person whose lower eye view enabled me to discover the canned mashed potatoes under the grill line. I was the baker who heaved aside boxes of frozen, fully baked Sara Lee Danish and Donuts, and the frozen pie shells the cooks used for Quiche Lorraine, all to extract my “fresh” fresh frozen fruits from the cold storage department. I was the woman who waited patiently for the use of an oven while the morning cook thawed and warmed items for the daily breakfast buffet: pancakes, waffles, and French toast – all of them delivered to our loading dock fully prepared and frozen.

And let me not forget the bucket of frozen hard boiled eggs, a true kitchen time saver. How hard was it to boil eggs? The previous week the cook was out of these frozen eggs and said, “Maybe I will give them donuts, instead.” Well, that’s a good substitute. The only thing those two have in common, is that both arrive in a box and are frozen.

But I didn’t speak. I had nothing else I could say to Chef Nico. I stood there and looked at this man. He was wasting my time.

And the real food he had talked about? Let me give you an example of how the Hotel Gold line cook scrambled eggs. First, delete any picture you might have of eggs being cracked onto a hot griddle. Next, delete that picture of whole fresh eggs anyplace on premise. We had our choice of egg containers, a shell not being one of them. There was either a waxed quart box, reminiscent of a quart milk container, called Easy Eggs. Or there was a huge and heavy two-gallon clear plastic and formless bag filled with pre-beaten stabilizer enhanced eggs called a bladder.

My first day of work, never having seen one of these bladders before, the first thing I did was squirt a gallon of color-enhanced eggs across the room, onto the flour bins and floor, and down my leg into my new sneakers. This was all in one shot. I was wet and yellow the rest of the day, except for my face, which was surely a pretty shade of pink.

My second day on the job, I was about to put some cakes into the oven when two huge steam table pans of jiggly opaque yellow jello caught my eye. Jello in the morning? Yellow jello, with steam rising from its depths? I was stumped as to what it could be. Then I saw Masud, our Algerian line cook, standing there with a butter knife. He was cutting the jiggly mass into small squares.

“Masud, I have never seen anything like that before. What is it?”

He looked at me quizzically, like I was possibly making a joke that had to do with American culture. He might have been right, I did like to joke around, except I really had no idea what that stuff was. I could not even guess.

“Scrambled eggs,” he replied as a matter of fact, pleased that he finally knew more than a pro baker.

I have no doubt that as the residents were scooping “scrambled eggs” onto their breakfast plates, they truly believed there was a cook in the hotel’s gourmet kitchen cracking fresh eggs into a frying pan.

Real restaurant food? Ignorance was breakfast bliss.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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My New Convection Oven!

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

If you follow my Facebook page, you know I recently purchased a new range.

Visiting the appliance department.

My ten year old stove was having a thermostat crisis. When I set the temperature to 350 degrees F. it often fluctuated between 250 and 450. If I was a pioneer in the days when cooking inside was a novelty, this wouldn’t be too bad. Back then, indoor baking was simply a large cast iron pot hanging over a wood-fired flame. But modern day appliances have spoiled me. Especially with the wide range of choices. (Pun alert!)

Out with the old, in with the new (right).

Four-rack baking?

One of the three new oven racks has a deep indent for roasting pans so my largest cookie sheet will not fit on that rack. I saved a rack from the old oven. Does this mean I have four-rack baking?

Fresh peach coffeecake in the oven.

My first baking day, I made fresh peach coffeecake. Within five minutes the house filled with stinky smoke and the fire alarm went off.

But the coffeecake came out great.

As did a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

My experience working at Maytag Appliances was invaluable. l reverted back to test kitchen mode and made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I used the conventional bake cycle for the first two pans of cookies. Very nice. I then turned on the convection bake cycle and put in three pans. Excellent!

So I’m in love! My new oven gives excellent results. Not like the convection oven I bought several years ago. At the time, I’d researched to find the best convection oven possible and purchased a top-rated model. Unfortunately, it never worked the way the company’s marketing folks claimed it would. I was totally unable to do three-rack baking. The results were dismal. I had several conversations with customer service and then with their higher ups. From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix.

Banned from GE

My brand new almond colored GE convection range with black burners and a bottom warming drawer looked very nice in my kitchen, but I was not pleased with its performance. I sighed and continued on in test-kitchen mode. I baked biscuits and cookies, always with the same poor results….

Steve, the GE service technician, arrived two days later. I showed him the manual with the rack placement instructions and my different cookie bakes that were spread out across the counter and table, carefully labeled with their oven placements. He seemed surprised that I had read the manual and that I had done so much evaluation…

He thought the book could be wrong and called their technical support line. The tech said the convection cycle was best for meats but did not do well with baked goods. The expert recommended using only one rack in the regular bake cycle for any baked goods.

I was rather upset. “The only reason I bought this more expensive model was to be able to use the convection bake and not have to turn my trays each time. I could have saved a thousand dollars and bought a standard range,” I stated.

They both said how great it was for meats.

“I’m a vegetarian,” I replied.

So where was I? I had paid a surcharge for the privilege of baking the way I had always baked…

This went on for a couple more weeks. Each time I spoke with the company, it was always my fault. I was told it was my recipes, my ingredients, my expectations. I was getting pretty annoyed and told them so.

“I’m very unhappy and the only conclusion is that this oven was marketed to do something, but it can’t deliver the promised results.”

When she demanded to know where I saw this information, I gave her the page numbers in their manual so she could follow along as I read her their marketing words. …she told me this oven had other wonderful features. I assured her I knew all about that, and I really did like the warming drawer, but the only wonderful feature I was interested in was the three-rack convection baking. I almost felt sorry for GE. They probably never expected that a customer would buy their product based on their marketing propaganda.

She told me she would call back. The phone rang at exactly 8 a.m. the next morning. I was informed that GE was buying back the oven. They requested that I make my next purchase from another company. “We do not want you buying any more cooking products from General Electric,” she stated.

“You mean I have been banned from GE?” I asked.

“Well, I guess, if you put it like that,” she replied.

Home-Based Baking at it’s Best! If you bake quantity in your home kitchen, and you need to replace your range, consider getting a convection model.

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When Pie Became My Friend

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Yesterday's blueberry pie!

Yesterday I made a blueberry pie. I love making pies! During the winter I use whatever fruits I’d frozen during the summer’s bounty. But in fresh fruit season there’s special joy in rolling out a crust and filling it with seasonal and local produce.

Yesterday I also made a few mini-pies.

There was extra dough and leftover mashed potatoes so for dinner we ate potato chive strudel.

I wasn’t always fond of pie-making. It takes practice and more practice. And a good recipe helps.  When I had my bakery and café, my bakers rolled out most of the pies so I didn’t get much practice. It wasn’t until years later when I was 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.

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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Thank You, Trouble

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

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For those who have not read my last book, I wrote about having some issues with my hands that compelled me to leave behind the heavy work of commercial baking.

From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix (pages 168, 185)

I had been quite lonely so we got a dog, a sweet-natured German Shepherd. We named her Trouble.

Most of my days were the same: I would spend an entire day without seeing anyone. Alone with the puppy, I remained unwashed and in pajamas. I felt lost without having a job or a regular schedule. I needed projects and a structure to my time.

Because of Trouble, I got involved in a dog biscuit project. Real baking was difficult but I figured it didn’t matter how I messed up dog recipes, who would complain? Living with a pastry chef was paying off for the puppy.

I learned that baking for dogs gave me the same rush that I got from baking for people. My first attempt was oatmeal biscuits sweetened with a dab of blackstrap molasses and tenderized with peanut butter. One for puppy. One for me. I was surprised at how tasty they were.

I entered a new world. Several inherent problems with baking for people were no longer problems with canine cookies. Shelf life, who cares? Who would know? Rarely would someone complain for their dog about a doggie biscuit being stale. And what about a cookie that is too dark or too bland or too ugly or too anything? I didn’t want to sound cocky, but it was beginning to look like I could not possibly mess up dog treats.

“I’m now a pawstry chef,” I emailed my daughter, excited about this new project.

I made veggie/cheese mini mutt muffins and Trouble loved them. The muffins had a beautiful golden yellow color inside, with flecks of orange and green veggies. My ingredient list included organic whole wheat flour and wheat germ with no sweetener or salt. These would make any health zealot proud. I put them on the table and Dave loved them, too. I waited until he had eaten four. When he told me how good they were, I explained that we were eating the dog’s food.

I called our vet and made an appointment – this one was for me. I wanted to make sure I was using pooch-friendly ingredients. The vet said no grapes, no onions, no chocolate; everything else was fine in moderation.

I made banana mutt mini muffins one night for dinner. They were suspiciously like my fruit-sweetened baked goods recipes. I made a note to use a cross reference in my recipe file index. The texture was soft and tender with a flavor reminiscent of real banana muffins.

Then, I had half a can of pumpkin puree left from a no-sugar recipe, so I made dog biscuits. I used little boy and girl gingerbread cutters and called them Pumpkin People. Trouble came into the kitchen and sat watching patiently while I rolled out the dough with my new one-handed rolling pin. I had a terrible time with my hands that day and I kept messing up. The dough landed on the floor more than once. But no matter how much I tried, there was no way I could ruin a doggie recipe…

My next baking project? I momentarily thought about a little dog biscuit business for when my hand healed. I requested the official guidelines and licensing information from the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The rules were overly cautious when compared to the rules for making people food. I could easily get a home processor permit to bake numerous people treats in my home kitchen but not for animals. For dog treats, I would need to use a fully inspected and licensed commercial kitchen. Each recipe had to be analyzed and approved before production. Animals were protected more than my neighbors!

Thank you, Trouble, for 11 great years.

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Before You Start a Business

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Are you thinking about starting a business? Writing a simple business plan is the first step in launching a successful venture. This plan will help you understand your overall ideas, if they are feasible, and how to proceed with implementation. In general, a business plan will help you to ask and answer basic, important questions such as:

Why should customers buy from you instead of the competition?

Writing a plan will help you figure out what to sell, who to sell it to, and the importance of product pricing.  A finished plan will help you reach your customers. It will identify your target market and your competitive advantages (what you offer over competing businesses serving that same market), and what advertising strategy you need to reach them.

If you are new to business and new to food-related production, I don’t expect you to know all the answers. But most important, you will begin understanding the process. Unfortunately, many folks jump in without considering the reality of basic business issues. Small business failure can often be averted by starting at the beginning with a detailed business plan.

One day I was having lunch with a group of office workers (who had no knowledge of my business background).  From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix, page 247.

… I made a Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte and during lunch as we cut into the cake, Louise said that the bakery on Ray Way Drive was out of business and the River Baking Company (which I thought was not that good) had moved in.

“You should open a bakery!” exclaimed Louise, putting down her fork.

“Been there done that,” I replied.

“You should open one in Mayville,” she continued. Mayville was a nearby, economically depressed little town. Louise began yakking about an empty storefront that had several different businesses in succession and was currently empty. Most recently it had been a deli owned by a woman with a catering business. The owner didn’t have regular store hours because of her catering. I guess she figured people wouldn’t mind showing up for coffee and donuts and finding a locked door.

I responded that the location was not great, but Louise insisted it was the best place ever to put a bakery. Their lunchroom conversation turned to the idea of how a gluten-free café or a cupcake shop would be packed with customers. Others chimed in, sure that the location was a winner. Were they thinking about opening a bakery?

This is a good example of why small businesses open and close so quickly, I thought. People with no business experience listen to people who also have no business experience.

“Don’t forget to write your business plan,” I said, heading home.

The above conversation happens far too often. If you do not want to be another statistic in the failure column, please take the time to write a business plan.

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


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The Five-Second Rule

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

The Five-Second Rule. Most of us have heard about this “rule” for years: If food drops on the floor it takes approximately five seconds for contamination to happen. Some people believe it’s true.

If your cupcake falls on e-coli or salmonella you are safe to eat it? And now, people are referring to it as the five minute rule. Who would possibly believe that if food is dropped on a filthy surface it takes five seconds (or minutes) to contaminate food?

Common sense, please. The moment your food touches an unclean surface (countertop, carpet, etc) it is infected with bacteria. Read more here and a short video from one of the food scientists at Clemson University.

If you are a food handler, please take the time to learn safe food practices. A good place to start is the USDA Factsheet. Also ServSaf from the National Restaurant Association and for the US, state specific courses.

The scary thought is what happens daily, in food production businesses. Many of you have heard this: If pizza dough lands on the floor, the employee grins, scrapes it off the floor, and yells “5-second rule.” In The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix I wrote about many things I’d observed.

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.

A better rule to live by: only sell food that you would eat, yourself.

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